Health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s stated aims include (a) better patient care (b) a safe and fair contract for junior doctors (c) increased hospital facilities during the weekend and (d) the same high-quality care whichever day of the week. He does not plan to increase the junior doctor pay bill. Most of us who work in the NHS find it impossible to understand how we can provide more elective or emergency service during the weekend, without either working for free (thus making it unfair), working for even longer hours (thus making it unsafe), depleting weekday resources to supply the weekend (which will hobble the system), or employing additional workers and paying them fairly for the labour they do (which is not part of the proposals).
We are unable to make progress with this important matter while Hunt repeatedly contradicts himself, disregards medical advice and persists in misleading the public about the intentions of doctors and our union, the BMA. I call upon him to make a fresh start, or allow a better qualified individual to do so.
I am pleased to read that Jeremy Hunt recognises that doctors working more than 56 hours a week puts patients’ lives at risk (“Hunt backs down with pledge to protect the pay of junior doctors”, 29 October).
Twenty years ago I raised this same topic with the director general of the health and safety executive in person, when my daughter was working 100-plus hours. I was told that there was no risk to the public. At that time there was an acute shortage of doctors.
Since then I have always suspected that political expediency has trumped the rule of law. Jeremy Hunt has now confirmed my suspicions.
Who is Jeremy Hunt making comparisons with when he decides on the terms and conditions of junior doctors? Certainly not MPs. What is an MP’s basic salary, holidays, expenses, hours? What qualifications and training has s/he had? How many can do a doctor’s job? What’s the worst that can happen if an MP has a bad day? If a doctor makes a mistake because of tiredness, someone could die.
Mr Hunt, unlike the rest of us, doesn’t have a vested interest in ensuring that we have a NHS that is fit for purpose. Perhaps I’m wrong but I would hazard a guess that when his family require medical care, he attends a private hospital. Do those doctors endure the working conditions he wants to impose on staff working in NHS hospitals?
The sad fact is that jobs involving money and generating money command far higher salaries than those responsible for the health of the nation. Of course we need to generate income, but you need a healthy population too.
Treat healthcare professionals with the respect they deserve, and acknowledge their vital role in society. While we probably can’t afford to pay them their real worth, we can, and should, ensure that they at least have adequate working conditions and decent financial remuneration.
The end of China’s one-child policy
China’s decision to revise its one-child rule (report, 30 October) is a stunning, but not unexpected reversal of a long-standing policy. It reflects a growing understanding of the implications of controlling the birthrate for the demographics of China as a whole. The iceberg issue is the increasing number of elderly people, often with dementia, left stranded in the countryside as their only child moves to large mega-cities such as Shanghai, which leaves them isolated and unsupported.
Funding the care of the elderly will have serious economic impacts in China with ripple effects globally. We urgently need collaborative work between researchers in the UK working on the challenges of global ageing and colleagues in China, to understand these issues share best practice, and develop practical and innovative solutions.
Professor Nikolas Rose
King’s College London
I believe that the scrapping of the one-child policy in China is motivated by the fact that millions of men are struggling to find partners, as the sex ratio is skewed towards males. This, I suspect, worries the Communist party as young men could become restless because of this situation.
West Bromwich, West Midlands
Gymnastics coverage lacks balance
Congratulations on your coverage of the World Gymnastics Competition being held in Glasgow.
On 29 October you managed a whole three inches of a column on the British men’s gymnastics team winning the silver medal on Wednesday evening, and included a whole sentence on the women’s team securing bronze the previous evening. This was squeezed into the Sport in Brief section, as opposed to five whole pages devoted to football.
When will you realise that: a) women are interested and do participate in sport? b) the entire nation is not obsessed by football?
Dangerous trend of volunteer police
As a retired police officer who has spent five years in a county force and then 25 years in the Metropolitan Police, I am forced to the conclusion that the Home Office is after one thing only – policing on the cheap (“PCSOs on the beat so police don’t have to be", 31 October).
Only a police officer, suitably sworn-in, can arrest persons who have committed, or who are reasonably suspected of having committed a myriad of offences, from simple obstruction right up to and including murder. All the rest – the specials, the PCSOs, the volunteers, and the general public, have to rely on those powers that are given to the public at large.
Most of the specials whom I met during my service were very well-intentioned, highly principled civilians in a uniform, but it has to be said that there will always be the odd one or two who have darker reasons for joining.
We should be trying to raise the standard of police officers, not getting in part-timers who, with the best will in the world, will not have had the training that a regular officer should have had. I am appalled that this current way forward is supported by the senior officers of the police of England and Wales, and I am afraid that it only goes to show what a disaster the training of the senior management has been and continues to be.
A simple search on the internet for “powers of arrest by the general public” will show that theirs is only a very limited power. And be warned; if you get it wrong you will be in court yourself for unlawful arrest, unlawful detention, or even possibly kidnapping, followed by the county court for compensation. Would you take such a risk?
Woodford Green, Essex
Vanishing road markings
Is it the result of an edict from the Local Government Association or do all local authorities think alike, that local authorities are failing to renew white lines? (Letter, “Vanishing road markings”, 31 October.)
The purpose seems to be to blame the government and show displeasure with cuts. To stoop to putting people in danger – try navigating a three- or even four-lane roundabout without white lines – is surely something new.
It’s happened in Huddersfield, at the town’s busiest three-lane roundabout.
Holmfirth, West Yorkshire
Portraits of Charlotte Bronte
The George Richmond portrait of Charlotte Brontë is in the National Portrait Gallery and is a brilliant, highly finished portrait of Charlotte’s head only. The picture you published in Radar (30 October), is a dreadfully wooden, amateur attempt at a copy of the Richmond portrait, with additions which do not appear in the original. It is most definitely not by Richmond.
Kids Company’s funding
I am sure, like most people, I assumed charities were funded by the great generosity of the public. It now seems that a charity such as Kids Company can obtain huge amounts of funding from the government (“Ministers funded Kids Company despite extravagance warning”, 31 October). As this is public money it seems we may be paying twice to support charities that we subscribe to.
St Andrews, Fife
The worst of both worlds
Angela Peyton (letters, 29 October) suggests that David Cameron and George Osborne appear either incompetent or dishonest. In my experience, these characteristics are not mutually exclusive – in fact they often go hand in hand.
Orpington, Greater London
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