Some doctors write
Sir: Professor Meirion Thomas (‘Dangerous medicine’, 17 August) may be an excellent surgeon but he is uninformed about the nature of GPs’ work. For many older consultants in the NHS, it will have been decades since they last spent any time in a GP setting, if they have at all.
He fails to realise that 95 per cent of the work of diagnosing, treating and caring for patients takes place within general practice. Common illnesses range from depression, to diabetes, asthma and hypertension, as well as many others. Dr Meirion Thomas’s idea that nurse specialists are the answer betrays his lack of understanding that most patients present to GP as a complex mix of interrelated symptoms and other factors. His views on IT and the lack of training places are helpful, but on those he has facts to back up his opinion.
Please don’t be fooled by his eminence. His is a very small field compared to the large prairie that is the NHS.
Dr David Bartlett
Sir: Our esteemed colleague J. Meirion Thomas ignores the case for generalised medical practice in the community that will serve a population where chronic rather than acute conditions will be to the fore. His opinion that expansion of A&E services are the answer to the woes of the NHS will not serve an ageing population with the dignity they deserve.
While we wholeheartedly agree with his suggestion that we need to train more doctors, these doctors will need to be working in primary care. The economic argument for expansion of general practice (where 90 per cent of patient contact is delivered with 10 per cent of the budget) needs to be understood by the institutions which educate and plan services.
Dr W. Mackintosh
Newly qualified GP, Pembrokeshire
Dr R. Skitt
Recently retired GP, Gwent
A rock of their own
Sir: Michael Hanlon’s piece ‘Bordering on insanity’ (17 August) was intriguing, but I feel he left the impression Gibraltar was ‘British’ in the way that the Isle of Wight or the Scillies are ‘British’, which is absolutely not so. It is held that six fishermen and their families were living on the Rock when it was occupied by British forces in 1703. By the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), the Rock was ceded to Britain and over time a population of workers, traders and all sorts, from many parts of the Mediterranean and the East as well as Spain and Britain, grew up around the garrison. The garrison has diminished, indeed almost vanished, but the population has grown and acquired its own identity; the people of Gibraltar consider themselves not Spanish, not British, but Gibraltarians, inhabitants of their own city-state and subject to their own laws and taxation, under the protection of the United Kingdom government. They are proud to be Gibraltarians; the two things they do not like are Spanish meddling and ‘Brits’ misbehaving in Gibraltar.
Charity at home
Sir: Your leader of 10 August was either woefully researched or wilfully misleading regarding the work of Save the Children. The suggestion that Save the Children has never worked in the UK prior to the arrival of Justin Forsyth as CEO is simply wrong. We have a proud history of bringing change to children in the UK as well as overseas: from supporting miners’ families in the 1920s; to successfully campaigning for free milk in the 1930s; setting up play centres in air raid shelters during WWII; and ensuring disabled children receive mainstream education. It is also incorrect to suggest Save the Children has only recently ‘diversified’ into campaigning. More than 90 years ago our founder, Eglantyne Jebb, was arrested in Trafalgar Square after campaigning against British government support for a blockade in Europe that was leaving thousands of children facing famine after the first world war.
Our ‘clear purpose’ is to save children’s lives, fight for their rights and help them fulfil their potential, whether they live here or abroad. Our purpose always has been, and will remain, above party politics.
Executive director of fundraising
Save the Children, London EC1
Sir: Dot Wordsworth has, perhaps understandably, overlooked a more obvious explanation for the success of ‘frack’ as an expletive (Mind your Language, 10 August). The popular sci-fi television series Battlestar Galactica used ‘frack’ as a substitute for ‘fuck’ as early as 1978. Fra(c)k has since been used an expletive in several other TV series of the type I struggle to imagine Dot Wordsworth ever watching.
Hard to swallow
Sir: On a breakfast table in France eggs available for boiling, oeufs cru, were labelled as ‘believed eggs’.
Assault and pepper
Sir: My favourite badly translated menu item was at a fish restaurant in Brittany where a dish of monkfish in a marinière sauce was offered as ‘Rape, Sailor Style’.
Sir: While the atrocious translations into English sparked by Alexander Chancellor’s recent column are justly amusing, we Brits have little cause for linguistic complacency. The country is replete with signs advertising ‘paninis’. I cannot imagine what an Italian visiting Britain would make of this ubiquitous linguistic barbarism. She would surely choke on her panino.
Professor Raymond Wacks