Letters: Save the NHS by demonstrating to voters the benefits of health insurance

·9 min read
Messages of thanks for the workers of Britain's NHS on the windows of 10 Downing Street in April 2020 - ISABEL INFANTES/AFP
Messages of thanks for the workers of Britain's NHS on the windows of 10 Downing Street in April 2020 - ISABEL INFANTES/AFP

SIR – Conservatives need to explain clearly – with reference to the incessant and daily problems in the monopoly NHS – why competitive market change and more self-responsibility are needed.

We need to stop talking in vague, general terms about reforms. We need actual, practical plans, including the introduction of personal insurance, with the tax system reformed and with direct financial incentives to pay for this.

You cannot introduce major change, of course, without consistently making the case for the open society and for self-responsibility. This kind of change – after more than half a century of Big State welfarism and cross-party consensus – will be disruptive initially, and costly, before the benefits of real change emerge.

We need powerful examples of the benefits. We could begin with pilot schemes of insurance, to show people how it works and encourage support. This succeeded with general practitioner fundholders buying care locally in the 1980s and 1990s. You have to educate voters, long-term, about fundamentals.

You have to start with the things you can do immediately, so people can see that beneficial change can happen. When they get used to the idea that such good things are possible for them and their families, even given the constant opposition from the Left-wing media, pilot schemes can be extended nationally.

We need to take a position and make an argument. We need to say what we really think, and keep on doing so.

Professor John Spiers
Former chairman, the Patients’ Association.
Birch Grove, West Sussex

SIR – My husband was admitted to Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, checked over and discharged next day. The wait at the hospital pharmacy was so long they said they would send his medication – by taxi. It duly arrived the next day. Previously, my daughter, returning to Broomfield for a check-up, needed medication from the hospital pharmacy. Waiting a long time while feeling ill, she asked whether she could take her prescription to her local pharmacist, but was told she could not.

Why can the prescriptions not be dealt with at local pharmacies?

Lilian Hunter
Ingatestone, Essex

Empty driver’s seat

SIR – When one collides with a driverless car (report, August 19), with whom does one exchange insurance details?

John Marsh
Sheringham, Norfolk

SIR – Call me a Luddite, but this rush to self-driving cars fills me with dread.

It seems as though Big Brother is once again taking control of our lives on the vague promise of more jobs and investment. None of us will have any control over the vehicle we sit in and that’s when the state will take control of who travels where and when.

Driving a car is one of life's pleasures and freedoms, and I predict bitter recriminations will follow such an Orwellian development.

Richard Drax MP (Con)
London SW1

Vulture relatives

SIR – Madeline Grant (Comment, August 17) writes that “in a survey of women who had recently had an abortion, nearly one in five cited the costs of childcare as the main reason for terminating their pregnancies”.

So all the rules put in place by the Abortion Act 1967 have been totally swept aside.

This sets the precedent for proposed protections under future Assisted Dying legislation (piously intended to protect the vulnerable from unscrupulous relatives) to go the same way.

Tom Benyon
Bladon, Oxfordshire

Christians in China

SIR – In China, police have raided the Early Rain Covenant Church following a gathering by its members at a teahouse in Chengdu, according to Radio Free Asia. It is the latest crackdown on Chinese Christians that has become increasingly common since President Xi Jinping assumed office a decade ago.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Joseph Zen, aged 90, the retired bishop of Hong Kong, is awaiting trial in September following his arrest in May. He is among scores of Catholic and Protestant clergy who have been targeted for propagating the Christian faith.

But where is the outcry? Not even a whimper of protest can be heard in the West. No one is even talking about it anymore.

Brian Stuckey
Denver, Colorado, United States

A glut of architects won’t build Britain’s future

The Seated Man or The Architect (1913) by the French Cubist painter Roger de La Fresnaye - Bridgeman Images
The Seated Man or The Architect (1913) by the French Cubist painter Roger de La Fresnaye - Bridgeman Images

SIR – Architecture – along with English – is now listed as a poor earning degree (report, August 17).

Thirty years ago I worked as an adviser to the Department of Education. Civil servants drew up plans to reduce the number of architecture courses in England by six. Eventually, just one was closed.

Ten years later, about a dozen new architecture degrees were approved and student numbers considerably increased.

On this basis, universities are over-supplying the market, with little chance of a job for everyone. At the same time we are short of vital medical and teaching staff.

These students are being funded by the taxpayer. Is it not time some discipline and logic were applied? In the 1990s recession someone commented that “25 per cent of architects in London are unemployed and another 25 per cent are unemployable”.

Dr Allan Ashworth

SIR – Your report (August 18) indicates that James Cleverly, our newly appointed Secretary of State for Education, has learnt nothing since Tony Blair’s mistake in setting an arbitrary target for university entrance.

It is ironic that Mr Blair’s son, Euan, is behind the successful Multiverse apprenticeship scheme.

Mr Cleverly should study the German dual educational system and the Dyson degree apprenticeship for engineering – a serious alternative to university for young people to acquire the skills and work experience so badly needed by businesses in this country, and neglected by successive governments.

Allison Pearson (Comment, August 17) summed up the present situation perfectly: “Now, hard-working, high-achieving sixth formers, the talent which the UK so desperately needs to be able to compete globally, find themselves shut out from the top degree courses … in a country that prefers to engineer admissions for kids from areas of ‘socio-economic disadvantage’, rather than improving the school system which failed them.”

In the past six years we have had six ministers in charge of education, providing no continuity or strategic vision for the future.

School funding per pupil has also declined due to pressure from the health sector and other essential services. It is time to make education an urgent priority for global Britain.

Paul Knocker
Bembridge, Isle of Wight

RAF recruitment

SIR – Surely it is the duty and to the benefit of every organisation, even the RAF (Letters, August 19), to employ the best candidates for the success of its enterprise. Imposing quotas from the outset is surely wrong.

If I was flying a jet fighter I would like to know that it had been maintained by the most capable. If it happened that this was a green, two-headed Martian, so be it.

Gregory Gill
Whitley Bay, Northumberland

SIR – I personally see nothing wrong with targeted advertising to aid recruitment to the RAF (report, August 17). I do, however, take exception to moves to socially engineer the structure of the RAF, or indeed any other area of society.

Group Captain Phil Owen (retd)
Long Bennington, Lincolnshire

SIR – One hopes, indeed expects, that the retired Rear Admiral Mathias (Letters, August 18) has shared his expertise on military leadership directly with the Chief of the Air Staff.

Have the First Sea Lord and the Chief of the General Staff been similarly privileged? Or are this sailor’s criticisms and advice dispensed solely on air matters?

Air Chief Marshal Sir William Wratten
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

When watering works

SIR – Professor Jerry Knox argues that water can be reused if it flows down our drains, but not when sprinkled on our gardens (Letters, August 17). This is not universally applicable.

In my area, water from our drains is piped to the sewage works at Newhaven, then straight out to sea. However, when I water the garden, water not lost through evaporation or transpiration (to fall again as rain) can sink down to the chalk aquifer and eventually emerge from our taps again.

Michael Staples
Seaford, East Sussex

Putin and the truth

SIR – President Vladimir Putin likes to claim that his country delivered Europe from fascism in the 1940s. The reality is that Russia joined forces with the Nazis to invade Poland in 1939. It also gave Hitler trainloads of war material every day from September 1939 to July 1941.

Indeed, Russian aid helped the Nazis to take Luxembourg, Belgium, Holland, France, Denmark and Norway, and subject those nations to fascist subjugation.

Mr Putin also claims that history obliges him to invade countries that were previously invaded by imperial Russia. This is perhaps the greatest of his lies. History has no authority over people who wish to be free.

The truth is that occupation by Russia is not very different from occupation by Nazi Germany, and Mr Putin is not very different from Hitler.

Tim Cox
Bern, Switzerland

Taming itchy labels

SIR – Jean Martin (Letters, August 18) is right, an emery board can certainly cure that infernal itchy label. However, my experience is that this can be too vicious, and only makes the problem worse. I find that an old toothbrush does the trick, particularly with a dollop of moisturising cream on it.

Shirley Copps
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

SIR – The weapon of choice against labels is a "quick unpick". We were all told to buy one by the needlework lecturer when we were students at Gloucester Domestic Science College in 1958, and I still use mine to get rid of those dreadful scratchy labels.

The point slides easily under each stitch, then the blade slices through it without risking a hole in the fabric. I believe they are now known as seam-rippers.

Carole Moore
Wellington, Somerset

SIR – It’s great that Tim Ward (Letters, August 19) is able to avoid scratchy labels by turning his underwear inside out. But has anyone ever tried wearing an inside-out bra?

Patricia Newman
Farnsfield, Nottinghamshire

SIR – When Tim Ward washes his “inside out” underwear, I bet the washing machine still manages to turn it the other way round.

John Newbury
Warminster, Wiltshire

SIR – What I cannot understand is how clothes manufacturers are able to attach labels so securely to a garment that it is impossible to remove them without causing damage, and yet are equally unable to sew on buttons so that they don’t come off.

Lynette Johnson
Udny, Aberdeenshire

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