Your commentary "The real cost of jobless youth" ( 12 August) makes it sound as if it were the troublesome or failing youngsters who find it hard to find a job after leaving school this year.
My son, neither exceptionally bright nor exceptionally stupid, and certainly not troublesome (just an ordinary kid, really) is leaving a good school this year with two A-levels, for which he worked very hard. He has very little idea what work life is like, and therefore very few ideas about what he could or would like to do, other than that he does not want to study academically any further.
What he would need is a meeting or two with an adviser who knows about the options in our region, who points or maybe nudges him into a direction and sends him on his way with a list of maybe five or ten addresses. What he doesn't need is another list of internet addresses, to look at long lists of job titles that mean nothing to him, or job offers from senior managers to fork-lift drivers.
My son didn't fail at school. I shouldn't think that he ever truanted a day in his entire school life. He has done everything the school system ever asked him to do; he has reasonable qualifications. What next?
Our son and friends have attained good degrees from a prestigious university. They are unemployed, seeking work daily with negative and demoralising results. They now require to apply for job seekers' and housing allowances to survive. How many young people are in this position? They are still motivated to succeed, but for how much longer?
New Labour encouraged young people to attend university, but why is it not tapping into the wealth of available intelligence, talent, ability and determination for the good of our country?
These wonderful attributes will eventually wither and wane. In addition, most of these individuals are saddled with huge debts – first generation tuition fee payers. It is a bleak prospect and some long-term common-sense planning is required.
The Government is letting our young people and our country down.
Rita E Cole
American attacks on the NHS
The British people hold the NHS as their most valuable common asset. It encapsulates the acceptance of a social insurance scheme, run by government, to ensure the well-being of our citizens whatever their financial circumstances. As a giant "business" it will occasionally have its problems, but they never deflect the loyalty we have for it and its importance for our lives.
I am rather encouraged by the vitriol now being poured upon it by some Americans, and most notably the influential right-wing news media. I live in the hope that finally we can look forward to never having again to be told that we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the US because we have shared values. It is a pity that it was a Labour government that, in promoting this fallacy before the Iraq conflict, should have led the country into such an easily avoidable tragedy.
The last few days have seen much heated debate about the virtues of a national health service and "socialised medicine". Much of the furore in America has seen fanciful misinformation and often deliberate untruths.
While no healthcare system in the world can be called perfect, the NHS is surely preferable as a system to one where the poor and vulnerable are left to fend for themselves. In the United States, 46 million people have no health insurance whatsoever, and it's telling that those who criticise universal healthcare rarely fit into this category.
Nurses are immensely proud to be working in the NHS. It is a social force for good, embodying a nation's belief that no matter what you earn, you have the right to be cared for when you need it.
Dr Peter Carter
Chief Executive, Royal College of Nursing, London W1
I would like to say a big thank-you to the American right for their focus on the NHS. Their propagation of myths, distortions and lies about our enviable system has provoked such a backlash among Britons that the Tory party, as the next likely government, has received a timely reminder of the regard the NHS is held in by the British people.
D J Browning
I share Christina Patterson's frustrations with administrative error in the NHS (Opinion, 15 August). This can be as upsetting for the clinician as for the patient.
However, her depiction of an NHS staffed by lazy, sulky, rude nurses, spiteful receptionists and sneering consultants is not one that I recognise. While such individuals may exist, the vast majority of those with whom I work are the antithesis of this.
Conversely, although the vast majority of patients are a delight to meet and a privilege to treat, there is, unfortunately, a small minority who are not. They find fault with and complain about everything. They sneer at suggested treatment options and are impossible to please. Treatment is difficult and takes longer, at the expense of less demanding patients. They make vexatious complaints, which generate hours of extra work.
These are however, manifestations of the spectrum of human nature and will always be so.
Consultant Surgeon, Cardiff
Many of us, not least those of us who worked for the NHS for many years, would argue (as Christina Patterson does so eloquently) that the "service to others"' element of the NHS has gone out of the window to be replaced by a management business culture, highlighted for example by Terence Thorn in his letter (15 August) about the appalling bureaucracy of changing an appointment.
The tragedy is not just that the treatment of people has become increasingly depersonalised but also that the job satisfaction of those working in the NHS has deteriorated, and thus a vicious circle is set up: unhappy staff and unhappy patients.
You are right that we need a proper debate about the NHS (leading article, 15 August), but please could we have that debate through consensus rather than pitting one political party against another. Political interference has led to the situation in which the NHS now finds itself. Everyone, no matter what political party they belong to, wants an efficient, personal, high-quality, accessible (as local as possible) service for all, and we all need to wake up to the fact that that can only be provided if we pay for it through taxation. Is it beyond the wit of us all to design such a service?
Dr Nick Maurice
I don't doubt Christina Patterson's bad experience of the NHS, since I too have encountered bored nurses and lost records, but it's far from always being like that.
This summer I've had a week's stay in Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead, for the removal of a cancerous growth on my neck, followed by a 22-day follow-up outpatient course of radiotherapy at Kent Oncology Centre at Maidstone Hospital. Throughout I was treated courteously, sympathetically and with great skill by doctors, nurses and radiographers. They all listened to me with attention and patience and made me feel that nothing was too much trouble.
And any American readers believing the NHS has an age limitation should know that my age, 81, never entered the matter. And they would do themselves a truly enormous favour by questioning their bizarre belief in the superiority of American healthcare, a belief so at variance with reality that you cannot but marvel at the skill of the propagandists behind that illusion.
Christina Patterson in her tirade against NHS workers misses the point. A lot of NHS workers feel unappreciated, disillusioned, disheartened and unhappy in their job.
We get it from both sides. On one a managerial system that cares nothing for its staff as it imposes change upon change, until none of us can keep up. On the other a general public who, because the service they get is free, attach no value to it. Abuse of staff is now common, complaints endemic.
Your paper has colluded over the years in jumping to write anti-doctor articles without pause to consider how demoralising those articles can be.
Dr John Harris
Cyclists on the pavement
David Wallas (letter, 15 August), commenting on cyclists riding on the pavement, begins: "After another pedestrian fatality. . ." We are talking about three deaths in the past decade, during which time over 400 pedestrians have been killed by motor vehicle drivers on pavements and verges. These deaths don't make headlines because they are not regarded as news.
I wish that all of the many people who complain about cycling on pavements would get on a bike and cycle on our roads; they might suddenly find the pavement very tempting, and perhaps they might redirect their energies into pushing for better cycling provision.
As the only serious injury I have suffered as a cyclist was caused by a pedestrian stepping off the pavement into the cycle lane, I will be happy to see cyclists prosecuted for cycling on pavements (which infuriates me too) only when pedestrians are prosecuted for walking in cycle lanes.
But it would be so much better if we all dropped this adversarial "holier than thou" attitude and learned to share our space with proper consideration for each other, regardless of our means of transport.
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey
Lured into debt by the banks
Shortly after the start of the current financial crisis I had cause to phone my bank and, during the course of the conversation, I was asked if I wanted a loan. The person to whom I was speaking seemed unprepared for my query as to why the bank was offering loans in a time of crisis largely caused by unrestrained borrowing encouraged by financial institutions regardless of ability to repay.
In the light of Johann Hari's article, "Cruel and out of control: the new face of debt collecting" (14 August), I find it astonishing that banks are allowed to unload the responsibility for the consequences of irresponsible lending on to people who have no scruples about using aggressive, compassionless and underhanded strategies for reclaiming debts.
Legislation regulating the ability of banks to do this, as well as curtailing the excesses of debt collectors and bailiffs, must surely be passed as a matter of urgency and then strictly enforced. How tragic that our society should have come to the place where the rich and powerful enjoy such licence to crush and profit from the poor.
The Rev Matt Butler
Following on from Trevor Jones's letter (15 August) can the Bank of England tell us why not only is there a dearth of £5 notes, but those few that we do have are filthy, torn, threadbare and disgusting to handle? Is it to encourage ourselves and tourists to get shot of them very quickly and so help the economy?
Cowling, North Yorkshire
Feeding the world
Mora McIntyre (letter, 14 August) makes an important point in her argument against GM crops. They don't appear to be too good at improving yields – which is supposedly the whole point. Besides, there is a simpler and vastly more efficient way of effectively increasing crop yields which requires no modification of plants, genetic or otherwise: stop feeding crops to livestock.
Dunlop, East Ayrshire
I support the idea of moving towards more secure food supplies, but why is the main reason there is a problem not being addressed? There are already too many people and by the middle of the century there are expected to be some 9 billion. Could something be done to start to formulate policies gradually to reduce population growth?
Quango in luxury
I found myself in Piccadilly, and passing number 83 was surprised to see the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority located in very plush offices with substantial frontage. Why such a body needs such prestigious central London offices is not clear. It sticks in the craw to know that secondary schools in my local borough, Haringey, struggle for sufficient resources while such profligacy is evident amongst these parasitical organisations nurtured by a government which has lost all touch with fiscal reality.
Elmo Lincoln – he not write Tarzan; he play Tarzan in Tarzan's first film (obituary for Brenda Joyce,15 August). Edgar Rice Burroughs – he write Tarzan. Me Stan – me write letter.