Letters: The country must accept that a ‘free at point of use’ NHS is no longer sustainable

A patient is wheeled into the operating theatre in an NHS hospital - Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
A patient is wheeled into the operating theatre in an NHS hospital - Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

SIR – I am retired. My wife is a GP who is nearing retiring. We are taking out private medical insurance because we can no longer trust the NHS to provide a timely response to possible future medical issues.

The NHS wastes vast sums in inefficiencies, poor communications, last-century IT and multiple other ways. There could be perhaps 10 per cent cost savings made in the long term. However, this will not totally resolve the problem of funding for the rapidly ageing population.

Surely it must be time to drop the “free NHS for all” mantra, as it is now totally unsustainable. It is also totally untrue – the NHS is paid for by taxation. It is time to introduce some form of additional insurance policy for additional service. This will also be an incentive for us all to work hard and reap more.

Martyn Bennett
Bodenham, Herefordshire

SIR – I have had occasion to contact my GP surgery three times within the past month. On each occasion it has taken most of a day on repeat calling to get through, as the line is constantly engaged. I have then been held in a queue for up to 40 minutes before reaching a care navigator. As a direct result, a minor urinary tract infection, which could have been quickly treated with the correct antibiotics, turned into a severe kidney infection, resulting in a week off work.

Once you get into the system you are extremely well looked after by nursing and medical staff. It is getting access in the first place that is the issue, and why patients go direct to their local emergency departments or even go private.

Deborah Castle
Little Kingshill, Buckinghamshire

SIR – Will Curtis (Letters, November 20) bemoans the success of locum agencies in enticing nurses moving from poorly paid NHS jobs to lucrative agency jobs, doing the same work – often within the same hospital.

Has he not heard of market forces?

I recently left an NHS position paying £200 a day for private work that pays me £1,800 a day. If the Government is going to make such a pig’s ear of the economy and so mismanage the production of energy, I and others like me have to find work that is more lucrative.

Dr Steven R Hopkins
Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire

SIR – An elderly relative had a heart operation in April, after which she was re-admitted to hospital three times.

Her family – who have been picking up the pieces caused by this over the summer – are certain that had the first hospital discharge been handled properly, and had she been sent to a safe place for convalescence to rebuild her strength before returning home, the three later admissions would not have been necessary.

A hospital stay, particularly when a general anaesthetic has been administered, brings about a huge deterioration in elderly people, especially where dementia or Alzheimer’s are involved. Patients often fail to realise this and reject offers of care when they are discharged, with inevitable results. Of course we respect people’s desire to get back to their own homes, but they must be genuinely able to do so safely.

It is surely far more efficient to provide care and convalescence in a residential setting, than to have care workers travelling around visiting people in their own homes for a rushed hour here and there, but there is a massive shortage of care-home places, even if you are willing and able to self-fund.

There is much talk of getting 50 and 60-year-olds back to work, but many of us are on our knees struggling to care for needy and vulnerable aged parents and relatives.

Rebecca Bartleet
Latchley, Cornwall

Pensioners’ safety net

SIR – As one of the young doctors C T R Hezlet refers to (Letters, November 20), I can confirm that young professionals are feeling the pinch and I welcome such recognition from those who are better off. Nevertheless, I have no opposition to pensioners being guaranteed their triple lock. My own recently widowed mother is one of those pensioners who has paid into the system all her adult life. I, for one, welcome this essential safety net for the older and vulnerable in society.

Dr Adam O’Connor

SIR – C T R Hezlet says that he or she is one of the alleged cohort of 25 per cent of pensioners who have “assets of over a million pounds”, but do not tell us whether this includes the value of their home. If it does, they are probably not as well off as it seems.

In the south of England there are streets and streets of houses worth a million pounds or more, yet it is not uncommon to find elderly couples who are asset rich but cash poor, as they have lived in the area for many years. The value of their house does not help them to pay the bills.

D S Anderson
Epsom, Surrey

Landlord bashing

SIR – Private landlords in the buy-to-let industry are constantly criticised by Left-wing politicians and action groups such as Shelter. However, until a tragedy such as the death two-year old Awaab Ishak from mould in flat occurs (report, November 24), they seem to ignore the terrible conditions suffered by tenants in some council housing, accommodation and housing association blocks.

We private landlords know how bad it is because we are regularly approached by social-housing tenants seeking accommodation in the private sector. This is despite the fact that our rents are often 25 per cent greater than the social-housing sector.

Private landlords are not paid £250,000 a year, with a guaranteed 75 per cent pension when we retire, as some of the chief executives in the social sector apparently are.

Conditions in the private sector are regulated by law, and that law is vigorously enforced by local councils. If a private tenant doesn’t like his or her house or flat they can move. This is not possible in social housing because of long waiting lists for affordable accommodation with assisted rent levels, which are paid for by the taxpayer. Sadly, it took the death of Awaab to bring these anomalies to a head.

Roger Bell
Lymington, Hampshire

Festive perfection with less time and energy

Bringing in the Plum Pudding (1906) by British illustrator Charles Robinson - Bridgeman Images
Bringing in the Plum Pudding (1906) by British illustrator Charles Robinson - Bridgeman Images

SIR – Following on from letters on energy-saving ways to cook pasta (November 20), do any readers know of ways to reduce the eight-hour steaming time for Delia Smith’s Christmas pudding?

I have used this recipe for years and all other puddings fall short. I would welcome suggestions for how to reduce both the energy costs and time spent in topping up the water levels, without compromising on the perfection that is the end result.

Meryll Wilford
Leeds, West Yorkshire

SIR – The method mentioned for cooking pasta – bring water to the boil, lid on the pan, hey presto – is also perfect for new potatoes.

Eileen Fawdry
Hampton Hill, Middlesex

SIR – In these straitened times, I can highly recommend the “simmer and stir” method for making Christmas cakes. I have just produced my tenth one for a charity stall, and I calculate that the greatly reduced baking time has saved me almost 20 oven hours – thus at least making the purchase of the dried fruit less painful.

Mandy Caldwell
Bishop’s Sutton, Hampshire

HS2 wake-up

SIR – Hardly a week passes without letters urging the Government to scrap HS2. From the person on the street to MPs and a plethora of experts, all highlight changes in working practices that negate the need for reduced, let alone unnecessary, train journeys.

A considerable sum could still be saved, while allowing the much-needed development of connectivity in cross-country locations at less cost, and with more public benefit. When will the Government wake up?

Stephen Howey
Woodford Green, Essex

SIR – Your report (November 20) on local councils and police forces spending millions of pounds on measures to combat the effects of the HS2 construction highlights how truly damaging, divisive and costly the project is.

Many of the community concerns are due to the fact that HS2 is taking vastly more land than our Victorian rail routes did. In addition, the large distances between its stations will not ease travel by motor vehicles, which will potentially increase traffic congestion. All this when the latest passenger figures show a decline in rail travel, particularly as so many companies now accommodate working from home as standard practice.

Ever since HS2 was first mooted in 2009, I have found virtually no appetite for the scheme. The cost is spiralling out of control at a time when the money could be directed to much worthier use.

Mark Treadwell

SIR – Criticism of Nasa’s Artemis programme to return man to the moon seems to centre mainly around the project’s £78 billion cost. However, since this is about £28 billion short of the cost to carry man from London to Birmingham via HS2, many might consider it something of a bargain.

Cliff Brooker
Hastings, East Sussex

Cold War casualties

SIR – Tony Parker (Letters, November 20) and others draw attention to the cost in aircrew lives that was quietly paid during the Cold War, when their sacrifice kept the peace.

Few are aware of the book of remembrance held in the RAF’s church at St Clements Dane in Westminster, London. This book records, month by month, year by year, the names of those aircrew who were killed while flying. Peace is not a gift, it has to be earned.

David Card (RAF retd)
Battisford, Suffolk

Seasonal pleasure

SIR – I was saddened to read Tim Robey’s critique of Love Actually (Arts, November 24), which seems to attack the film on a number of tropes that were hardly thought of when it was made in 2003.

To my family, it is a film that all generations can sit in front of, half watching, but chorusing the lines as they are spoken from years of habit. It is a familial event – increasingly rare – to be enjoyed by all and probably forgotten until the next annual showing. Let’s allow a little guilty pleasure.

Martin R Cooper
West Horsley, Surrey

Polyglot pooches

SIR – Our dog obeys instructions given in English (“Dog Latin”, Letters, November 20) in direct proportion to how amenable she is feeling. But she obeys anything issued in French, immediately and without question.

We always wonder where she learnt the language.

Stephen Knight
Barnet, Hertfordshire

SIR – I lived in Basel, Switzerland, in the 1980s and toured the city’s guide dog training school with a group from my son’s school.

As German, French and Italian were spoken in the country, a decision had to be made as to which language the trainee dogs should be schooled in. Apparently, they responded best to Italian, so all were taught the basic commands in that language. This meant that a blind German or French-speaking person who received a guide dog also had to learn these commands in Italian.

Sue Knoll
Bromsgrove, Worcestershire

SIR – My golden retriever patiently sits while I recite Benedictus, Benedicat per Jesum Christum Dominum Nostrum before her evening meal. However, the effect is slightly lost as she doesn’t move until I say “Go” after Amen.

John Mellows
Kilmington, Devon

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