Letters: The surgeon and the PM

Surgeon's rebuke for Cameron photo-op

Saturday 25 June 2011 00:00

Well done Mr Nunn, consultant orthopaedic surgeon ("Gardening leave for surgeon who railed at Clegg and Cameron", 23 June).

Infection in Orthopaedic implants is very often serious for the patient, difficult and time-consuming for the surgeon to deal with and expensive for the Trust. In order to reduce the risk of infection to the very minimum, strict discipline in the operating theatre and also on the ward is essential. In this instance the ward discipline was compromised for the convenience of visitors wanting a photo-opportunity, and it does not surprise me that Mr Nunn was angry.

It is Mr Nunn who has ultimate responsibility for the safety and surgical outcome of patients under his care and who has high professional expectations of himself and those he works with. In my view he was let down on this occasion.

I have no idea who are "the wider team"; it smacks of management speak for "Cover your backs." In my opinion the views of the wider team are wrong and Mr Nunn is right. Perhaps the wider team should learn some more of infection control.

It would not be surprising if Mr Nunn is considering his future with the NHS and taking his expertise and experience elsewhere. If so, another senior orthopaedic surgeon is lost to the NHS.

Philip V Seal FRCS

Retired Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

Wellington, Herefordshire

We are dismayed at your report that David Nunn, the consultant surgeon who chucked the Prime Minister's media group out of his ward, has been reprimanded. There is a real issue of public policy coherence here.

Surely placing the health and care of his patients at the centre of a health professional's concerns is a core value for a well-run health service. Surely, too, this is an example of the sort of real transfer of power from the centre to those directly responsible for the care of patients that this government's health service measures are supposed to be all about. Unless of course that is all just words and passing embarrassment trumps values.

We write independently of Mr Nunn as local citizens, and as neighbours and fellow book club members of his – what could be more Big-Society-in-action than that? But if health reforms mean anything, his actions should be congratulated, not denigrated.

Dr Mary Martin

Dora Schweitzer

Steve Wilson

Becky Croall

Dr Rupert Evenett

Peter Gingold

Victoria Rance

London SE3

It is both sinister and bizarre that a distinguished surgeon such as Mr Nunn should be suspended from his job for doing it.

He was absolutely correct in dealing peremptorily with a couple of politicians who had infested his terrain on a publicity stunt. I know from experience that higher education is gradually being destroyed by managers and managerialism, and suspect the same might be true in the medical world. It must be time for a crusade to rid the professions of these parasites. Best of all, their salaries could be put to better and more constructive uses.

Michael Rosenthal

Banbury, Oxfordshire

That a senior surgeon should be on "gardening leave" for seeking to enforce hygiene regulations is outrageous. The villains in this matter are the Prime Minister and his deputy, for using a hard-pressed hospital for political purposes, and the hospital trust for permitting them.

Anthony Phillips

Falmouth, Cornwall

If David Cameron's much-vaunted commitment to the NHS means anything he should immediately call for Mr Nunn's reinstatement. Anything less would prove him to be the hypocrite he shows every indication of being.

Kate Francis


Obama risks 'stab in the back'

President Obama has made the right decision in starting the withdraw from Afghanistan. However if over the next 12 months the war remains in an impasse and the tentative negotiations with the Taliban bear no fruit, in the summer of 2012 there will be congressional hearings attempting to establish the blame for the waste of American lives and treasure.

Obama, having gone against the Pentagon's advice in escalating the pull-out, will find the present tame criticisms from the Pentagon leadership turning into hostility as they attempt to blame the President for the failure of the Afghan surge.

German Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg in 1919 read a written statement to the Reichstag commission investigating the German defeat in the First World War. He stated that the Imperial Army had been on the verge of winning in the autumn of 1918, and that the defeat had been precipitated by a "stab in the back" by disloyal elements on the home front and by unpatriotic politicians.

If the Pentagon leaders use these tactics to mask their failures, they would be totally unjustified. Obama gave the maximum number of troops available for the surge, and if the generals were unable to repeat the results achieved by the surge in Iraq, it was not a failure of Obama's leadership but that of the battlefield generals. Alas, the testimony of generals in Congress always trumps that of politicians.

Along with the economy, failure in Afghanistan may become the main issue denying Obama a second term.

George D Lewis

Brackley, Northamptonshire

Minimum wage for the disabled

Dominic Lawson (21 June) is wrong to suggest that people with learning disabilities should be able "to offer work for less than the minimum wage".

A voluntary opt-out would render the minimum wage irrelevant, as, when jobs are scarce enough for everybody, the learning disabled will be forced to "choose" to work for a pittance because if they don't, then there are plenty of other people who will.

Mr Lawson then claims that for learning-disabled people "it's not about money. It's about work." But there are plenty of learning "disabled" people who can work on their own merit, but who would come under pressure to work for less than £48 per day.

Everybody, disabled or otherwise, is entitled to the protection of the minimum wage offers and it is shocking that anybody would question that.

Jack Darrant

London SW2

Unlike Dominic Lawson, I would not advocate a lower rate of pay for those with mental disabilities. Rather it should be looked at on a case-by-case basis, because not all have the same degree of problems and support needs.

My oldest son is an adult with autism (Asperger syndrome). He is highly intelligent and has completed a three-year full-time college course, leading to an excellent qualification. He does get very frustrated at the lack of job offers, despite the many hundreds of interviews that he has attended.

With the right level of support he can be a very valuable contributor to society. But help for adults with mental disabilities is very limited and very poorly funded.

Debbie Boote

Keyworth, Nottingham

The value of a concert hall

I am writing to clarify Julie Burchill's comments about Brighton's Dome concert hall (16 June). She was out by a factor of more than 31 on the actual spend to refurbish the Dome, which, incidentally, is a three-venue complex and not a single hall. The figure was £24m and not £750m, more than £19m of which came from National Arts Lottery funding.

The Brighton Dome venues are a central part of the city's successful cultural economy. Annually over 250,000 people pay to come to see over 600 events. Average audience figures are very high at 72 per cent. One in five businesses here in Brighton and Hove are in the creative and cultural sector. The cultural offer is an essential part of attracting visitors, inward investment and jobs.

Cllr Geoffrey Bowden

Cabinet Member, Culture Recreation and Tourism

Brighton and Hove City Council

Americans in Paris

I found Susie Rushton's view of Americans in Paris woefully smug and condescending (Notebook, 21 June).

Rather than trampling about Paris as our "one-stop shop of the Old World," perhaps we enjoy the city for the same reasons as anybody else: an abundance of beautiful architecture, fabulous food, and storied streets to walk for hours. But it's certainly more fun to jab at the "cushioned" American women conversing in – of all things – their own language!

Megan Peck

Winter Park, Florida, USA

Clichés to die for

One of the most absurd cliches is surely "I can't believe that ..." for "I'm surprised that ...". I read in a student's essay that "Othello can't believe Desdemona is having an affair". Whew! Tragedy averted!

Jane Darwin

London SW7

I think that the listing of clichés has continued for long enough. It is time to draw a line in the sand and move on.

Patrick Mill

Ryde, Isle of Wight

When all is said and done, the fact is that we are where we are.

Danby Bloch


Not very equal

Petra Ecclestone is blamelessly wealthy. Yes, blameless and beyond reproach for the luck of her birth. And yet George Monaghan (letter, 23 June) implies her situation should not be allowed to occur. I suspect he would consider my handsome face and vast intellect another thing to be outraged about as they give me an advantage (through accident of birth) over others.

Xavier Gallagher

Antwerp, Belgium

Perspectives on circus animals

At last, a defeat for the whips

Well done that man Mark Pritchard, who in Parliament defied the strong-arm tactics of PM Cameron's henchmen, stuck to his principles and successfully led a revolt to ban wild animals performing in circuses.

Too often it has been reported that MPs of all parties are threatened by the gangster-like tactics of the whips. It is time they were abolished and that all MPs were permitted to vote with their conscience on behalf of the taxpayers who voted for them.

That would be a democratic parliament, unlike the one we have now.

Terry Duncan

Bridlington, East Yorkshire

Why didn't Labour do this long ago?

The successful vote in the House of Commons on wild animals in circuses is excellent news. However, it raises the question why Labour did nothing about this issue in the 13 years it had in government. In 1997 Labour put out a pamphlet promising "New Life for Animals", yet it allowed Anne the elephant and other animals to continue to suffer. Even with the passing of the Animal Welfare Act Labour dragged its feet on this issue, not even declaring an ethical stance against the use of animals in circuses.

The public consultation introduced by Labour occurred just a few months before a general election it knew it was not going to win. Now Labour is not in power it has suddenly declared itself passionate about the barbaric cruelty of animal circuses.

If Labour is ever to regain the trust of the animal advocacy community it needs to learn that it should be passionate in defence of animals when in power and not just when it is in opposition.

Chris Gale

Chippenham, Wiltshire

Now for humans

I congratulate The Independent on the success of its campaign over circus animals. Can we now look forward to a similar or even more robust campaign in defence of the human beings of this country in the face of the attacks orchestrated by this awful government on its citizens? Or will we have more of the current sycophantic approach to the Coalition?

People are as important as animals aren't they?

Andy Hill


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