Letters: NHS summary care records

The NHS's Summary Care Records are not "a bureaucratic attack on our entitlement to privacy" (letters, 16 March), but part of a worthy attempt by the NHS to reduce from 4,000 the number of patients who die each year because of "inappropriate treatments".

I am an ageing patient who is currently treated by two hospitals, neither of which knows what tests and treatments the other one has given me. I find this dangerous. Moreover, when I meet a new doctor in a new surgery, I find I can no longer remember the names of the five drugs I take daily. A Summary Care Record would tell the doctor what medications I am taking at the click of a mouse.

If I had Aids, or if I mistrusted computer databases, or if I was a celebrity who was afraid of the press making hay with my clinical record, I might think about opting out. If I did, all I would have to do is make a call to my GP, or fill out a form from a website.

I find it bizarre that the BMA and many clinicians seem to be scared of Care Records. Electronic records provide them with easily accessible evidence about the back-history of their patients. Doctors talk loftily about the benefits of "evidence-based medicine", but perhaps they really prefer to fly by the seat of their pants, as they have done in the past.

Richard Sarson


Richard Marr (letters, 17 March) says of the Government's NHS Summary Care Records plan: "If this were my project I wouldn't allow anyone to opt out." I, for one, am heartily relieved that he is not in charge. His statement seems to me to be verging on the totalitarian.

Laura Kaufman

London NW11

Time for Catholics to take a stand

In the wake of the Pope's apology for the sexual abuse of children by members of Roman Catholic Church clergy, it's surely time for Catholics worldwide to take long-overdue action (report, 20 March). They need to sweep out the vermin so allowing innocent clergy to continue their ministry, which is so needed in our troubled world.

Instead of continuing to pour money into the Vatican's coffers via the offertory box, and by so doing effectively colluding with what is going on, why don't they stop going to Mass until accusations or cover-ups of abuse in every contaminated continent by the clergy, be they priests, bishops or cardinals, are subjected to criminal investigation as would be the case for anyone else.

When the money stops flowing in I would like to bet there would be a pretty sharp Vatican about-turn.

I am a Roman Catholic suffering from advanced cancer and not likely to see closure of this horror, which has probably ruined hundreds of thousands of lives. However I have voted with my feet; it is time that we all did.

Josie Stephenson

Sudbury, Suffolk

Benedict XVI may have inadvertently opened a whole new can of worms in his apology to the Irish for decades of abuse by Catholic clergy. His letter makes specific reference to clerics answering to "properly constituted tribunals" as well as to God.

This smacks of the same sort of religious court as is advocated by those Muslims who want to see Shariah law operating in parallel to British justice. Whatever the religious dispositions of Irish people, the authorities must remain committed to secular courts.

The only sensible way to deal with this history of abuse is for the Catholic Church to disclose fully to the police and authorities all reported and suspected instances of abuse and to then show a genuine commitment to helping the secular courts to mount prosecutions under existing statutes. Otherwise the Pope's initiative could give every other religion and sect – the Jedi and Satanists included – the right to set up what they believe to be their own "properly constituted tribunals".

Paul Dunwell

Alton, Hampshire

The only way for the Catholic Church and its Pope to make credible amends to the victims of child abuse is to reverse their policy of secrecy by fully opening the child abuse files of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.

The files of every priest accused of molesting a child should be sent directly to the attorney general of the country in which the crime is alleged to have been committed, along with the current whereabouts of all clergy members involved.

Let the due process of law be brought to bear on those who perpetrated and covered up these crimes against children. Any action short of this will just perpetuate the cover-up.

Ellen Purton

Twickenham, Surrey

The present Pope, as head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, bore the key reponsibility within the Catholic Church for the protection of children. He chose to close his eyes to cases of sexual abuse, and no pious expressions of regret can now free him from his guilt. There can be no hope of the Church regaining any credibility until the Pope resigns his office.

Dennis B Stuart


BA: a lesson in poor industrial relations

Why, when economic conditions require organisations to cut costs and increase efficiency, do managers in this country assume only they can produce solutions which must be developed in secret and then imposed on the workforce? Can no one see that all the employees have a major stake in ensuring that the organisation stays in business and would be able and willing to contribute to the solution if they were kept involved?

Imposition of arbitrary cuts inevitably leads to catastrophic industrial relations, then strikes, and finally, too often, the discovery that the imposed cuts don't allow vital work to be done. The organisation then has to engage agency staff at a greater cost than the savings that have been made.

And incidentally, it doesn't help for a political leader, scenting a vote-winning opportunity, arbitrarily to condemn the workforce and to encourage strike-breaking.

Geoff S Harris


I am a British Airways Gold Card holder and for many years was in the top percentage mileage passengers using the airline. I planned to use one of Willie Walsh's "support flights" to travel to London on business during the planned strikes. When I booked online, I received the standard e-mail confirming my booking. I then went to the "Manage my booking" section of the BA website to check in and print my boarding pass. There I found a warning of possible delays or cancellation. I decided to see if I could cancel and move to another airline. As I completed the form I arrived at the final stage to find that my "refund" would only be for the taxes I had paid.

Willie Walsh has to get his operating costs down in order to ensure BA's survival and will no doubt beat the Unite union in his battle. However, if the price of the war is that customers desert the airline, it can hardly become a victory.

For my own part, I will be sending my Gold Card back to BA.

Willie McLucas


Just when things are getting slightly dodgy for them, the Conservative Party finds the great British Trade Unions Movement galloping to the rescue. Who needs Ashcroft when you have Unite and RMT batting for you? Comrade Dave is truly blessed.

Tom Simpson


Before the well-heeled middle-classes moan about their spoilt weekend jaunt away, they should think. If the BA cabin crew's salary is reduced to £18,000, they will earn 2.5 per cent of Mr Walsh's £720,000, before he gets any bonus for cost-cutting, ie job cuts. Would they take a 25 per cent drop in their income quietly?

Janet Salmon

Richmond, Surrey

The BA strike is about preserving high rewards for long-serving cabin crew. This is no old-fashioned labour dispute but the protection of privilege. It has nothing to do with defending passengers from BA's mismanagement but everything to do with preserving a self-serving community.

Richard Graham

London SW6

It is clear that the unions have given up on Labour winning the General Election. That is why Unite and the RMT are threatening to unleash chaos on the travelling public, and this little jamboree is just a rehearsal, a foretaste of what they intend to unleash on a Conservative government, or even a hung parliament.

Alan Carcas

Liversedge, West Yorkshire

In crisis, we need a hung parliament

In his letter of 16 March, Dr Andrew Blick omits one important date. There was no hung parliament in the summer of 1940 per se, yet Churchill united the country by assembling a coalition. The national crisis was a desperate war and Churchill's creation of a coalition served to focus all politicians' minds on the core problem, and away from party-political point scoring.

We are now in a similar situation. We have a financial crisis that threatens our currency; MPs fiddling their expenses; a "majority" party without enough members of real calibre to staff a Cabinet; an unelected Prime Minister who has lost the confidence of many of his own party; and an angry and disaffected electorate.

To cap it all, we are imprisoned with an outdated electoral system needing fundamental change while the two major parties fight each other, not the problems at issue.

A coalition, or hung parliament, would ensure the Government in office actually represented a majority of the electorate. The Liberal Democrat party voted against the Iraq war, and on several occasions gave warning of the impending dangerous situation within the financial system. What they have to say cannot be ignored.


Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire

I entirely agree with Adrian Hamilton ("People vote for competence, not policy", 19 March), but I think that his basic point can be reduced to a simple proposition. A country which claims to be democratic should change its government at intervals for the same reason that a person should change his shirt: not because the new one is necessarily any better, but because if the old one is kept on too long it stinks. Policies, "initiatives" and exhortations are unlikely to persuade those who associate Gordon Brown and his ministers with a strong whiff of sweaty armpits.

Sebastian Robinson


Rural broadband

The CLA has long campaigned for broadband to be extended to "not-spots" and rural areas to meet the needs identified by the Government's Rural Advocate's latest report. Therefore, we applaud Virgin's proposal to trial overhead superfast optic fibre cabling (report, 12 March). But we are puzzled about why Virgin plan to string thousands more poles through our beautiful countryside rather than sharing the existing electricity poles that serve every community in the land.

William Worsley

President, Country Land and Business Association (CLA),

London SW1

Subsidised pleasures

Justin Brodie may be "constantly surprised" at being able to enjoy "frugal pleasures" (letter, 18 March). I'm not surprised at all. Those who attend football matches and subscribe to Sky also pay taxes (and BBC licence fee) to subsidise most of those pleasures Justin enjoys, such as the theatre and museums.

Francesca Weal

Welwyn, Hertfordshire

Stanley in Zanzibar

Katrina Manson's article (19 March) claims that Stanley "laid waste to dozens of towns on the exotic island of Zanzibar". In fact Stanley had cordial relations with the Sultan and used Zanzibar as a base for expeditions in 1871, 1874 and 1887. He may have acted harshly in the interior, but he certainly did not devastate Zanzibar.

John Sankey

(British High Commissioner to Tanzania 1982-1985), London W2

Novel abuse

In "Authors? They're all just jealous, bitchy backbiters" (20 March) you quote Peter Kemp as saying that customers at a Tesco's check-out are unlikely to acquit themselves as memorably in a disagreement as well-known authors. I may not have an award-winning novel in print, but I am sure I could engage in an argument with a queue-jumping fellow-customer in language just as colourful and imaginative as that of any published novelist.

Jane Gregory


Bad dogs

Mark Taha says (letters, 12 March) that there are no bad dogs, only bad owners. This is reminiscent of the US gun lobby's mantra: people kill, not guns. But it rather misses the point.

Marc Patel

London SE21

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