SIR – Sir Keir Starmer’s speech on the NHS (report, May 23) was misguided and unhelpful.
His comments will do nothing to improve the service. The NHS must be taken out of the political arena. It must be appreciated that the principles governing it today are very different from those in 1948.
There needs to be an open discussion about what the NHS can and can’t afford. The probable conclusion would be that the current structure must be dismantled so we can start afresh.
Whether our current politicians have the will to do this is unlikely. But without such an approach the health service will simply continue to decline, devouring larger and larger amounts of taxpayers’ money.
Tudor Lloyd Thomas
Consultant orthopaedic surgeon
SIR– The Labour leader intends to set new targets for the NHS should he become prime minister. It appears he will also continue with the policy – favoured by governments of all colours – of simply throwing more money at the problem.
The NHS management structure is not fit for purpose and requires major reform. I would humbly suggest an all-party commission is set up now, rather than waiting until after the next election.
SIR– I was interested to hear the BBC’s interview with Sir Keir on Monday morning.
It was never suggested that one of the biggest mistakes on the NHS was made by the last Labour government, which pushed through the new GP contract. Since then general practice has deteriorated.
I worked for 30 years under the old contract and accepted night and weekend working as part of my job. Indeed, while I was at medical school I knew that, when I qualified, I would have to expect this. I wonder if the Labour Party will recognise or learn from its error.
Dr John Bennett
Newick, East Sussex
SIR– If junior doctors were concerned about the additional pain and suffering caused to patients through delayed appointments and operations, they would announce their strike dates much further in advance (“Doctors threaten to strike all summer”, report, May 23).
This would mean that appointments were not booked during strike dates. From the doctors’ point of view, their actions would still affect many thousands of people – but at least those thousands wouldn’t have to go through the process of having their appointments booked, cancelled, delayed and rebooked, as has already happened to me.
Of course, you could also argue that if junior doctors were concerned for patients they would not strike at all.
Tate’s preaching detracts from the joy of art
SIR – In his review (May 23) of the Tate Britain rehang, Alastair Sooke asks: “Where’s the love?”
The same might be asked of Tate Modern, where I came away after a recent visit wearied and dispirited by being constantly preached at on the evils of British culture. Of the beauty and joy of art, there was very little.
Huby, North Yorkshire
SIR– The Tate Britain rehang has, among other things, sought to put our colonial past in the spotlight – and not in a good way.
I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before we see the renaming of this institution, since it was founded on the profits of the evil sugar trade. In fact, it would be a double victory for the woke brigade: an exploiter of slaves and a cause of obesity attacked in one move.
SIR– After many years of visiting Tate Britain and enjoying the visual pleasures of the art on display, will I now have to endure an unwanted history lesson? I just want to appreciate the art, not form opinions of the artist.
SIR– I’d like to reassure your readers that John William Waterhouse’s The Lady of Shalott has not been sent to storage (“Tate tars popular works with imperial brush”, report, May 23).
The painting is on loan to Falmouth Art Gallery for a major exhibition this summer and will return to our walls afterwards. Tate is one of the world’s biggest lenders of art, and I’m proud we share the national collection across the UK in this way.
Anthony Caro and David Bomberg also remain well represented here by fantastic large-scale works, including new acquisitions that we’re delighted to share with the public for the first time. The rehang simply puts these much-loved artists side by side with less familiar artists, shedding new light on both. I encourage everyone to visit Tate Britain and see this for themselves.
Director, Tate Britain
Braverman and Raab
SIR– Most people caught speeding try for a speed awareness course instead of points, and it would be wholly reasonable for someone as busy as Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, to ask her subordinates to try for her (report, May 23).
Anyone who has run a large enterprise will understand that. If Ms Braverman has breached the ministerial code then the code is insane. One suspects, however, that this is not about the code but just another of the regular attempts by the Civil Service blob to get rid of a minister it dislikes.
It is profoundly undemocratic for ministers in elected governments to become subject – as is increasingly the case – to dismissal at the whim of a faceless, unelected and self-appointing Civil Service. It was an outrage that Dominic Raab, who is now standing down as an MP (report, May 23), was toppled apparently just for ruffling the feathers of civil servants whom he found incompetent or dilatory.
Government is a tough, high-pressure business, and ministers deserve considerable latitude in their behaviour – not this constant, petty sniping.
Banned from teaching
SIR– I am deeply worried by the case of the school teacher banned from his profession after “misgendering” a pupil (report, May 23).
That his case was not heard in a court before a learned judge raises questions over which law was applied and under what authority he was tried.
Reports indicate that the teacher had expressed unfashionable opinions over several years and upset a small group of parents. To my mind there is an urgent need for Parliament to get a grip of this matter before mob justice prevails.
SIR– It’s official: pupils are now in charge of the classroom.
Don’t imagine that they are unaware of this.
SIR– At the time of the 60th D-Day celebrations my husband and I took a friend for our combined birthdays to Monet’s garden at Giverny.
On our way back we stopped at a café for a snack and a drink. The waitress appeared with three glasses of Calvados that we had not ordered, and an elderly man came over.
He had little English but we were able to gather that he was so grateful to the British for having liberated his country that he wanted us to have the drinks as a token of his thanks (Letters, May 23).
He even attempted to buy us another round.
Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire
SIR– As an impoverished medical student I obtained a summer job in a Liverpool hospital, travelling from Dublin on the overnight ferry.
I could not afford a berth and so slept on the floor, curled up in my old duffle coat.
I was a bit startled in the morning to be awakened by two priests looking down at me. They took me to the restaurant and bought me a very welcome breakfast.
I have not forgotten their human kindness.
Dr Robert McKinty
Darlington, Co Durham
Justice for war widows
SIR – Dr Andrew Murrison, the Minister for Defence People, Veterans and Service Families, announced in Parliament the offer of an £87,500 lump sum to war widow(er)s who had surrendered their pension on remarriage or cohabitation before the change in legislation in 2015 (report, May 18), which permitted the retention of the pension in such circumstances.
This association has been campaigning for many years for the reinstatement of the war widow’s pension to these individuals.
Throughout, the Ministry of Defence and the Treasury have held fast to the principle that the pension could not be reinstated. We now understand that the one-off payment offer is to be subject to income tax and, as a result, may be worth as little as £54,000. None the less, this will push recipients into a higher tax band for one year – possibly necessitating the submission of tax returns – and have an impact on pension tax credits, and potentially other benefits, in a way the war widow’s pension would not.
To tax this award – and to have not made clear in the announcement that this would happen – seems grossly misleading and unfair.
The MoD has relied upon the risk of creating a precedent if the award were to be made tax-free. But such a precedent has already been established with the award to Far East prisoners of war in 2000 and the introduction of a lump sum award for veterans suffering from life-limiting asbestos-related conditions.
There are further unanswered questions. What happens if the subsequent relationship ends? Is the pension reinstated? Is there an abatement against the lump sum?
We are seeking further discussions with the MoD and Treasury and we will press most strongly for the removal of the tax burden. We believe we have a strong argument against the use of “precedent” as a bar to making the award tax-free.
Chairman, War Widows Association
SIR – My grandmother managed a small Stilton cheese-making dairy in Stathern, Leicestershire (Letters, May 22). In 1938 she was presented with a medal from the Dairy Farmers’ Association for her Stilton cheese.
Many of these dairies have closed, leaving just a few larger ones making Stilton for the worldwide market.
Rethinking the rules on wine with seafood
SIR– I was delighted to read William Sitwell’s review (“A happy, crowd-pleasing mix of surf and turf”, May 20) of the obviously excellent Harbour Beach Club in Salcombe, Devon.
I was equally pleased to see that the photograph showed Mr Sitwell enjoying his predominantly seafood lunch with a glass of red wine.
I am – boringly – still a traditionalist in that I prefer white wine with fish, but am beginning to learn, after over 40 years in the wine trade, that this really doesn’t matter anymore. Such fun!
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