While accepting that the Tory government has underfunded the NHS compared with other western countries, this is only part of why there are large differences in numbers of hospital beds (“Doctors tell Javid: NHS crisis caused by you, not by Covid”, News). From the noughties, I saw plans from trusts, health authorities and commissioning groups that reduced the numbers of hospital and psychiatric hospital beds, driven, in some cases, by workforce issues and a need to centralise specialist services but by a belief that acute services should be provided in the community.
Double running costs were never considered to ensure that community services were up and running before closing beds. This has led to the catastrophic situation for mental health patients and the unacceptable and dangerous bed occupancy rates in the acute hospital sector. This approach was largely due to the Department of Health. To restore patient confidence, reduce appalling waiting lists and improve staff morale, it is imperative the government funds an immediate expansion of NHS beds.
Dr Christopher Clough, former chair of the national clinical advisory committee and Medical Director Royal Colleges of Physicians
Pro life and pro abortion
I am appalled at the recent US supreme court judgment on abortion (“Abortion ban is Trump’s legacy. Women across America will pay the price”, Editorial). I’m pro life. That is I am pro planetary life in all its diversity. I am pro life in the sea, the forests and the soil. I am pro life in my new pond, now swarming with tadpoles, most of which will be eaten by dragonfly larvae or newts. Life is also death.
The problem on planet Earth is that one particular life form is getting in the way. It’s humans. In 1800, there were fewer than a billion people on the planet. The discovery of coal, then oil and gas has provided immense benefits over the last 200 years. But it’s also enabled a current population of eight billion, resulting in the other life on the planet being crowded out as we have destroyed and polluted natural habitats. We are living in the sixth great extinction.
Pro life means there should be fewer people, not more. Sex education, family planning and access to abortion as a fundamental right should be at the heart of this vision of pro life.
Fishing for sympathy?
I read with interest your article on the high fuel costs of the fishing industry in Brixham (“If fuel goes up, we can’t afford to fish – trawler skippers”, News). In 2008/9, Greenpeace said the high oil price had done more to curtail damaging industrial fishing than it had achieved in 30 years.
The industrial trawlers mentioned by Barry Young, managing director of Brixham Trawler Agents, are least worthy of fuel subsidies: why should taxpayers subsidise such fuel-intensive and environmentally damaging fisheries? The fuel per kilo of fish caught consumed by these industrial fleets is up to 10 times greater than fuel used by inshore fleets. Furthermore, the industrial trawlers are fishing closer inshore, jeopardising the fisheries of many of the small-scale inshore fishers, whose livelihoods depend on them, and who have a far greater economic multiplier effect in the local economy. If fisheries were better managed, there would be plenty of fish in the sea. Sadly, it’s the greed of the massively wealthy few in Brixham who continue to peddle their tales of woe.
Elegy for lost poets
I share Rachel Cooke’s sadness that the OCR exam board is removing work by poets such as Thomas Hardy, John Keats, Philip Larkin and Wilfred Owen from its GCSE English literature syllabus, though not entirely for the same reason (Notebook. English literature at A-level is in decline. One consequence is the decision by Sheffield Hallam University to suspend its English literature degree course. It is crucial that English literature at GCSE level fires the enthusiasm of pupils and this necessitates refreshing the syllabus from time to time.
Having looked at the poems being brought in by OCR, few pass the Clive James test: “With a poem, the most important thing is the way it sounds when you say it.” I can’t make many sound more engaging than a weather report. Only a handful possess sufficient energy, musicality or beauty to make them memorable, especially for young people accustomed to memorising the words of pop songs or rapping. The majority, I fear, lack aesthetic appeal. Some of the poems are even a bit clunky. They are unlikely to help stem the decline in the popularity of English literature in schools.
Burnham has the bright idea
Keir Starmer’s analysis of the Wakefield byelection result (“Labour has now claimed the centre ground – and has shown it can win”, Comment) is worryingly complacent.
Last August, following Andy Burnham’s lead, Starmer said he would paint his vision in primary colours, but still talks in generalities, which won’t clarify the public’s perception of what he stands for.
Burnham’s proposals include electoral reform, housing as a human right, an end to insecure employment, a national care service and rail renationalisation (“Why it’s time for Labour to back proportional representation”, Comment). These can be expressed in simple language that resonates with voters. If Starmer won’t take up the challenge, the shadow cabinet must.
Dr Anthony Isaacs
Worksop is where it’s at
Kitty Empire’s otherwise excellent piece about Cresswell Crags in your Hidden Histories supplement (“Going Underground”) is marred by her assertion that there are “very few things to do in Worksop”. Worksop contains Mr Straw’s House, a townhouse frozen in time since the 1920s and owned by the National Trust. Then there is nearby Clumber Park, Sherwood Forest and the estates of Welbeck and Thoresby. I could go on…
Signing off in style
Alex Clark’s article brought to mind one of the most splendid resignation notes (“I quit! The art of resigning in style”, Focus). Newspaper foreign correspondents in the days of transatlantic communication by telegram would write in a journalistic shorthand to save cost; the full article would be fleshed out by the editor. While in America, Evelyn Waugh regarded his articles as sacrosanct. Consequently, he would transcribe his writing on to a telegram, verbatim.
The cost did not go down well and the newspaper, after repeated warnings to keep telegrams shorter, issued an ultimatum: shorter telegrams or you’re out of a job. Waugh’s resignation telegram was a miracle of brevity: “JOB UPSTICK ARSEWISE WAUGH.”