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Dear Mary

Dear Mary: My teenager insists on an NHS operation. What can I do?

Plus: How to face down wrong-stamp shame

12 April 2014

9:00 AM

12 April 2014

9:00 AM

Q. Our son, aged l6, has a medical condition which, although not life-threatening, requires surgery by a specialist to pre-empt it becoming lifestyle-threatening. The NHS waiting list is long. He has had private health insurance since birth and never yet used it but he refuses to jump the queue as he disapproves of ‘elitism and privilege’. We’ve explained that by taking up his right to go privately he would help another young man with the same condition move more quickly up the NHS list but to no avail. While we admire his ethical aspirations, my wife is having sleepless nights.
— N.G., London SW1

A. First find a surgeon who performs the operation both privately and on the NHS. Many private surgeries are carried out in NHS hospitals and, unless the boy is an experienced inpatient, there is no reason why he should be any the wiser as to whether his treatment has been private or NHS. You should take this pro-bono step behind his back because, admirable though his intentions may be, an ethical stance based on half-bakedness should not be indulged.  


Q. What to do when you have sent out invitations with the wrong stamps on them? I have just sent out 70, mainly to Kent locals, to a fund-raising evening on 17 May in my own house in aid of the excellent charity Beanstalk. I am devoted to Beanstalk, which sends volunteers into primary school to help children who have fallen behind with their reading. Emerald O’Hanrahan (from The Archers) will be reading from Jane Austen and there will be wine, snacks and a raffle. Unfortunately, however, standard stamps (now 53 pence for second class) were put on rather than large letter stamps (73 pence second class). My postman tells me that, though about half  the invitations will ‘get through’ the other half will have to be collected in person from post offices and even though the shortfall is only 20p, people will have to pay £1.20 to get the letter. Since they will find inside a request to spend more money (on a ticket for the event) I feel I have let the charity down by making people associate its good works with this nuisance.
— A.O., Sittingbourne

A. Immediately send out a new round of correctly stamped invitations enclosing apologies and, for those people inconvenienced, vouchers to be handed to you on 17 May to claim a surprise present as compensation. This present can take the form of a sheet of ten second-class large letter stamps. The value in kind to the punter will be far greater than £7.30 — think of the post office queues they will be spared. The goodwill towards Beanstalk will remain intact, indeed probably be boosted. Meanwhile no stamps will go to waste if unclaimed.


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