Sir: My recent experience supports Dr Max Pemberton’s view that the NHS is letting down thousands of patients (‘Nothing to applaud’, 30 May). I am a 71-year-old living alone, with no symptoms of coronavirus. For several weeks I have, however, been experiencing severe pain in my left hip. A consultation with my GP diagnosed that I needed a shot of cortisone to reduce the inflammation, but I was told that the NHS was unable to offer clinical consultations due to a focus on the crisis. I was unable to cope with the pain any longer, so my daughter arranged a private consultation and an injection at a cost of £220.
My heart problem is potentially more serious and is proving more difficult to resolve. After a severe chest infection at Christmas I admitted myself to hospital, where they discovered that I had atrial fibrillation and was a stroke risk. I was prescribed blood-thinning tablets and beta blockers and booked in for treatment in April. This was postponed indefinitely in May because of the pandemic crisis. I am still waiting to hear when I will be seen.
There are thousands of people out there in a worse position than me, and I strongly suspect that when this is all over we will discover that the suffering caused by our attempts to control the virus will have far exceeded that caused by the virus itself.
A clap for selflessness
Sir: I believe that Dr Max Pemberton’s article (30 May) reflects a misplaced understanding of why most people applauded NHS staff each Thursday evening. It was for the swaths of workers who undertook their duties under horrendous conditions. As we remember soldiers rather than the rights and wrongs of why they fought, similarly the Thursday evening clap was a sign of appreciation for selfless actions. It was not a judgment on whether the decisions made were correct.
Sir: I have enjoyed Dr Lee’s articles throughout the current pandemic but fear I must point out a factual error in his article on death certification and how Covid deaths are counted. The medical certificate of cause of death has only ever required a single doctor to complete. I have been a full-time GP for almost 30 years; indeed, in the past ten days I have certified the deaths of four of my patients, who were care home residents. I visited them all in the days before their deaths and felt Covid-19 was a factor in only two of them. Perhaps he has confused the medical certificate with the cremation form, which until Covid required two doctors’ signatures, lest we destroy the evidence of our own mistakes.
Cockles and mussels
Sir: I was intrigued to read Andrew Watts’s article (‘Go fish’, 23 May) concerning Britons’ aversion to seafood. This was not my experience growing up in London’s East End. My parents’ and grandparents’ generations were very fond of seafood. The small road where I lived supported a wet fish shop which also did a thriving trade in shellfish at weekends. Cockles, whelks and mussels were a staple for Sunday tea, and pubs would put shellfish on the bar during lunchtime sessions. Many pubs had whelk stalls outside, and eels — either jellied or stewed — were on offer in pie and mash shops, as they still are. This all seemed to die out from the late 1980s, as tastes and demographics changed. I assume that seafood had been popular among the working classes because it had been cheap. But I wonder if this was peculiar to Cockneys, or was seafood popular among the working classes of other cities?
Jostling for obits
Sir: A reader (Letters, 16 May) recalls that newspapers had to stagger the obituaries of JFK, C.S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley, who all died on the same day in 1963. Some readers may recall the Spectator columnist Jeffrey Bernard musing that it would be just his luck that his own death would be lost amid those of better-known figures. Sure enough he died in the same week in 1997 as Princess Diana and Mother Teresa (but was fondly remembered in numerous obituaries).
Balls to bats
Sir: David Gower’s paean to the bat (Notes On, 23 May), might be a little less fulsome had he witnessed the damage a ‘healthy bat population’ can inflict on the interiors of our churches. It’s just not cricket.
Sir: Rory Sutherland (The Wiki Man, 30 May) mentions the space-saving ingenuity of central vacuuming systems fitted to some American motorhomes. Stephen and Virginia Courtauld installed just such a device at Eltham Palace in the early 1930s. A vacuum hose attached to concealed sockets in the skirting of each room fed into a bin in the basement. For some reason, the system never caught on in domestic houses. Perhaps I can nominate the late British Vacuum Services and Engineering Company retrospectively for Martin Vander Weyer’s Economic Innovator Awards?
Live fast and die old
Sir: Lionel Shriver’s column (30 May) hit a chord. I tell my children and grandchildren that, as a 77-year-old, I should be taking far more risks than them. No comfortable retirement home for me — I still ski, and, when travel restrictions are lifted, plan to kayak solo down the Danube.