Sir: Your leading article (13 February) blames junior doctors for playing with lives in their dispute; but what alternative do they have when confronted with the monumental ignorance of our present government (and the last, and the one before that, for that matter)? The NHS, when it started, was propped up by the amazing dedication of the post-war generation and then the baby-boomers. Even so, by the 1960s it was dependent on cheap foreign labour. If people want a first-class service they have to pay for it. It is about time somebody made our government aware of the facts of life — and the junior doctors seem to have stepped up to the plate.
Sir: Your suggestion that doctors pay for their training should they decide to emigrate reminds me of a relative who left communist Czechoslovakia for the West after having trained as a dental technician. Accused of stealing her education, she was unable to return for many years afterwards for fear of imprisonment. Are you suggesting that we adopt the tactics of a communist state?
Apprentices and undergraduates of any worth are thin on the ground. Many children nowadays are too lazy to make anything of themselves. Surely the ones who are willing to invest several years of their lives in education and training should not have to pay for it, and indeed should receive an income for making the effort.
Claim back Europe
Sir: Two of your correspondents (Letters, 13 February) refer to the EU as ‘Europe’, and this has now become the norm. Can something be done about it? Europe is a continent, whereas the EU is an artificial construct with no physical existence, in which not all European countries even participate. Referring to the EU as ‘Europe’ gives groups like Britain Stronger in Europe an unfair advantage in the referendum campaign, implying as it does that those who want Britain to regain control of its own affairs are somehow not Europhiles. Most of us are proud to be part of Europe, but very few have much affection for the Brussels bureaucracy.
The promoters of the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign must know very well that Europe is not the EU. What guidelines are in force about names that are so misleading? Can they not be required to change it to ‘Britain Stronger in the EU’?
Sir: Parliament has already provided, by the Easter Act 1928, that Easter Sunday is to be the Sunday following the second Saturday in April, which would always result in Easter Sunday being between 9 and 15 April (Letters, passim). This was supported by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, but has never been brought into force. Surely now is the perfect time to enforce it?
Sir: Simon Barnes had me wondering if Norway is an ‘unenlightened’ nation for allowing sustainable hunting of the common minke whale (‘The song of the whales’, 13 February). Barnes’s Disneyesque description of the animal world introduced no sensible arguments against whale hunting. Growing up in Norway I regularly ate and enjoyed whale (it tastes like a cross between ox liver and tuna), and I see no reason why not more people can enjoy this healthy meat, with sensible husbandry. After all, it’s no less enlightened than eating horsemeat lasagna.
My father’s death
Sir: One cannot but feel sympathy for Anil Bhoyrul (‘Death on the NHS’, 6 February) after reading his account of the passing of his mother in a London hospital. Losing a parent is traumatic enough without the pain being exacerbated by shortcomings in a system that is designed to care.
However, as somebody who has also had a parent die in hospital recently, I must say that many of the positive qualities that Mr Bhoyrul found when he last came into contact with the NHS ten years ago are still in place at Torbay hospital, thankfully. All the staff, from the cleaner to the consultant, were caring, courteous and solicitous. Despite the tremendous pressures of their working days, they worked hard to help ensure that my father was afforded a peaceful and dignified departure.
Spending a few days and nights on an NHS ward is a real eye-opener for those of us whose jobs allow us to lead a more sheltered life. I am left with nothing but feelings of admiration and gratitude for all concerned.
Sir: I read Alexander Chancellor’s column about litter with interest (Long life, 13 February). A few years ago I was teaching in a south-east London school where there was a bad litter problem. The head announced in assembly one morning that he had been driven to the shameful expedient of having to pay someone to come in and pick up the litter. The situation immediately became worse. The pupils were adamant that if they did not drop litter, this person would be out of a job.
Sir: Dot Wordsworth (Mind your language, 13 February) should visit my local branch of Waitrose. On the exit ramp from the car park are two notices: ‘Beware of pedestrians,’ and a few feet further on: ‘Be aware of pedestrians.’