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Preserve the NHS

THERE can be little doubt that the NHS is highly valued by the majority of people – regardless of their political allegiances.

There can also be little doubt that the NHS is currently in crisis. At various demonstrations over recent months, placards have been displayed saying “Save our NHS.” But, what sort of NHS do they want to save?

The NHS, today, is very different from the NHS in 1948, when it was founded. Prior to this, people had to pay to see the doctor. (except workers ‘on the panel’) or to be treated in hospital (with ‘Lady Almoners’ assessing how much each patient could afford to pay).

Today, we have many effective, but expensive, drugs that can treat cancer, diabetes, asthma, heart disease and ‘blood pressure’, and stomach and bowel problems that were not available then.

Today, there are many effective, but expensive, operations available – such as joint replacements, cardiac stents and by-pass grafts, and organ transplants – that were not available then.

All these now come ‘free’ to the patient; but they have to be paid for – by ‘The State’, in other words by all of us.

The NHS was founded on two basic principles – first, that no one who needed it should be denied treatment because of their inability to pay; and, second, that it should be ‘free at the point of delivery.’ However, as soon as it started, it became obvious that demand exceeded supply. So, in 1952 (only four years after its inception) the second principle was abandoned by the introduction of prescription charges, and payment for spectacles and dentistry.

(It is interesting to note that, although we were the first country to have a national health service, no other country has followed our example of free at the point of delivery.) The problem of demand exceeding supply still exists. The demand has increased with the availability of the new treatments.

And the supply is controlled by whichever political party is in power. Thus, the NHS has become a political football because of the differences in party ideologies.

But, unless there can be a practical discussion, putting aside party political dogma, we shall never reach a long-term solution that is fair to all citizens.

Currently, there is a shortage of doctors (both in hospitals and general practice), there is a shortage of nurses (both in hospitals and in the community); and there is a shortage of front-line staff (both in hospitals and the community – including those controlled by local councils).

This is largely, but not entirely, due to their pay and their conditions of service.

This shortage is the cause of long waiting times for a GP appointment; and for the inability to get patients discharged from hospital back into the community.

The demand has increased partly due to the ageing population (who get more diseases), but, to a lesser degree, to the availability of some treatments for conditions that some would argue were not diseases and the tendency of people to want to see a doctor now about minor, but self-limiting conditions.

The solution to the problem can only be either increase the supply (more staff – so more money) or decrease the demand (some sort of ‘rationing’) – or a mixture of both.

But these are political dynamite to politicians. Hence the need for discussion in a forum free from political dogma.

I am sure that by far the majority of people would wish to preserve the first principle on which the NHS was founded – no one being denied treatment because of their inability to pay.

I am also sure that, with goodwill, a solution can be found – where there’s a will, there’s a way.

MALCOLM MORRISON, Retired surgeon, Prospect Hill, Swindon

The high tax Party

THE other day I watched the Conservative Prime Minister give a party political broadcast. It was well delivered, upbeat and made much about levels of employment and prosperity, citing we had the fifth largest economy in the world.

I do find such pronouncements from her, and others in her Tory, millionaire dominated cabinet, rather at odds with daily experiences. If we are so rich how come: n The NHS seems to be in perpetual crisis with too few doctors, midwives and nurses?

  • The police force, having lost 20,000 offices over the past few years is in a ‘perilous state’ being ‘potentially perilous’ and unable to cope, partially due to an acute shortage of detectives?
  • The ambulance, and fire service, are re-priotising calls to cover loss of staff?
  • Schools are having the biggest cuts for a generation and there is a crisis in recruitment and retention of teachers after many years of denigration and severe restrictions on pay by the Tory Government?
  • At a local level I am having to pay three times the inflation rate to have the same level of service and practically every service provided by the Conservative council had been visited by the ‘stealth tax’ merchants and increased?

I think many people like myself would feel that we are paying our part to re-balance the nation’s books after the borrowing to support the economy following the global recession from 2008.

However, the last chancellor, Mr Osbourne, made political capital for his party out of this global event.

One would have thought that after seven years of record employment and consequential tax income, that the deficit would have been almost paid off by now.

Instead we have seen unprecedented cuts to all walks of public service and Mrs. May’s Tories, as well as being branded, by herself! as the ’nasty party’ for issues like the Bedroom Tax, are fast collecting a gong for being the party of high taxation.

Their hike in VAT upon election, more recently devaluation of the pound by 15 per cent and today by increased taxation via National Insurance means they are well up for an Oscar next year.

BOB PIXTON, Abney Moor, Liden, Swindon

Read the small print

MUCH is being made of the recent budget and the raising of NI rates despite a Conservative manifesto promise suggesting it would never be raised during the life of this Parliament.

The gist of the argument is that the Conservatives are relying on the ‘small print’ to advance their case, something which is neither new or has never been done before.

Politicians bandy like confetti at a wedding words such as vow, pledge, promise and assure; knowing they have little if any intention of keeping them.

The Conservatives promised that if, through no fault of your own, a rogue employer broke their covenant to pay a pension obligation, the Pension Protection Fund and its various offshoots would pay up to 90 per cent of your entitlement. The ‘small print’ states otherwise.

The Government promised when the new state pension changes took effect they would “make sure no one would receive less under the new scheme than they would under the old scheme”, safe to say that was also a lie but you have to read the ‘small print’ to understand why and even then it’s as clear as mud.

The Government promised that those who paid 35 years of full NI contributions would receive a full pension and those who paid SERPS would also receive an extra payment, what they didn’t say was that if you contributed for 43 years any contracted out period would be deducted from the 35 years and not the total which could mean a difference of £2,500 a year in pension payments.

How ironic that this Chancellor should seek to berate those industries which contribute to human misery by hiding important clauses in the ‘small print’ whilst being a serious practitioner of the same dark art.

DES MORGAN, Caraway Drive, Swindon

Parish will help

I WELCOME T Reynolds’ contribution in the letters page of 7/3/17.

For clarity, Swindon North Central Shadow Parish did not state support for the sporting hub at Moredon, the matter was not on the formal agenda.

Coun John Ballman wanted to know, who pays for all of this. My colleagues and I will review the results of the borough council’s consultations. Indeed, I will organise such consultations.

My colleagues and I regard the Gorse Hill shopping area as very important for this part of town. We note the borough’s irresponsible decision to close this public toilet and, should the asset pass to this parish, we will recommend that the parish maintain it as a public resource.

In the meantime we will see to it that the fabric of the building is sorted. Mr Reynolds solution of “let it close and blame the Tory Council” did not find favour with my colleagues or me.

DES MOFFATT, Chairman, Swindon North Central Shadow Parish Council

Crossing fright

CROSSING the road outside Morrisons at midday on Saturday a Swindon-based delivery van seemed reluctant to come to a halt, unlike other traffic.

As pensioners crossed the road he kept nudging forward: The underlying message was of course: “Come on, move!”

Still nudging forward he shouted (from the safety of his van)as I looked at him: “What are you looking at?” It may have contained an expletive, he was so angry.

When I commented on his lack of professional basic courtesy, the creature screamed: “I don’t have to stop!” That, in a nutshell, is his attitude to the crossing and it’s user frightening.

At that he sped off, with people shaking their heads at his unprofessionalism and bad manners.

With this employee’s attitude driving about town and showing no driving courtesy to pedestrians, I don’t think it will be too long before he loses his rag and strikes someone with his vehicle at this crossing which depends so much on drivers’ goodwill, something he sadly lacked.

Not the best of advertisements is he for the locally-based company?

J ADAMS, Bloomsbury, Swindon

Meet old comrades

I doubt very much if the reader who only writes the occasional letter to “Letters to the Editor,” realises just how well read that letter will be.

Local newspapers around the country, like this one, recently printed a letter of mine about those who have served in the Royal Navy trying to find their old shipmates.

The response has been fantastic, there are now more than 40 Royal Navy Reunion Weekends organised around the country.

The reunions are listed on the RN Shipmates web site, and if your readers want to get in touch and start a search, the contact is there.

For those not on email drop a line to Mike Crowe, 7 Heath Road, Sandown, Isle of Wight, PO36 8PG. and I will send you details. A stamp will help the pension (please leave the stamp on its own backing paper). Typical are the HMS Cavalier Association reunion, the Field Gunners, HMS Illustrious Association, along with HMS Ark Royal, HMS Collingwood, HMS Loch Fada and of course the RN Shipmates reunion itself for those without an association.

See you there, and thank you local newspapers.

MIKE CROWE, Heath Road, Sandown, Isle of Wight