The Spectator

Spectator letters: In defence of the GMC and Ukip members, and how Rachmaninov spelled Rachmaninov | 23 October 2014

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Health check

Sir: I have to take issue on (at least) three counts with Dr Vernon Coleman and his absurd suggestion that the GMC should be abolished (‘Get rid of the GMC’, 18 October). I administer the annual appraisal and revalidation process at an acute hospital. First, revalidation of licensed doctors is based on an evidence-based annual appraisal which is designed to demonstrate that doctors are up to date and fit to practise — surely not too much to ask? It takes the average doctor about five hours each year to complete the ‘reams of forms’.

Secondly, the colleague and patient ‘report forms’ are required once during the five-year revalidation cycle — and to ensure credible and candid comment is received, the doctor must have no direct part in collecting and analysing it.

Thirdly, revalidation was not the invention of the GMC (lay that at the door of the Department of Health), and its design took almost 20 years before the British Medical Association would agree that something was better than nothing.

The current process is not perfect and it will repay some redesign. But don’t blame the messenger — Dr Coleman’s nonsense about his motoring offences is not part of the GMC requirement.

I could go on, but surely everyone would agree that checking a doctor is up to date and fit to practise at least once a year is not a lot to ask? Perhaps those who have decided to duck their revalidation and retire should have done so anyway — what did they have to fear?

Andrew R. Forsyth

Giggleswick, North Yorkshire

The right prescription

Sir: Copies of the articles by Max Pemberton and Vernon Coleman about the NHS and GMC respectively (18 October) should be framed and hung on the wall of every office at the Department of Health. They describe exactly what is preventing medical professionals from doing their proper job of diagnosing and treating patients. Organisations, be they health services, professional registers, armies, schools, cricket teams or whatever, fail when they lose sight of their primary purpose.

John Doran


Quite normal people

Sir: At the risk of being wrong, I do not think Matthew Parris has been to a Ukip public meeting (‘Online comments help me understand the Nazis’, 18 October). My wife and I, not Ukip members, decided we wanted to see who their supporters were, so we attended an event in Newbury. We found that they were quite normal people; accountants, lawyers, engineers, entrepreneurs, blue-collar workers of all ages. There was no rowdy discussion and no heckling — just people listening to the promotion of anti-EU politics. Since then we have had different a view of these Cameron bêtes noirs. The Prime Minister would appear to have much to worry about.

Anthony Brookes

Charlwood, Surrey

Keeping their marbles?

Sir: Re your leader on the Elgin Marbles (18 October), we should tell the Greeks that we will return the marbles if they agree to reinstate them on the Parthenon itself, thus reuniting two separate parts of a single work of art. If the polluted air of Athens makes this impossible, then we have no option but to keep them here, safely and securely displayed, until Greece cleans up its act. Over to you, Mrs Clooney!

John C.H. Mounsey

Barnes, London

Letters from Rachmaninov

Sir: Damian Thompson wonders why the London Philharmonic Orchestra insists on spelling Rachmaninoff’s name with two ‘f’s, rather than a ‘v’ (Arts, 18 October). The answer is that the composer himself ended his name with two ‘f’s rather than a v, as can be seen in his signature. Modern transliteration would probably demand ‘Rakhmaninov’, which to my mind looks horrible. ‘ђахманинов’ looks best!

Nicholas Walker

Salisbury, Wiltshire

Liberia’s next tragedy

Sir: Mary Wakefield compares boys becoming terrorists in Syria and Iraq with the ones who became child soldiers in Liberia (‘Can British jihadis be saved?’, 27 September). There is a fundamental difference. Those leaving Britain to join the Islamic State choose to reject the values of our society and embrace barbarism. Liberian boys and girls brutalised by psychopathic warlords were victims — a hackneyed word, but appropriate for poverty-stricken, uneducated children living in a country long exploited by its elite. And those same children, the ones who survived, are now dying as adults from the horrible Ebola epidemic. Newly arrived US military helicopters tear past the British embassy. But the real heroes are foreign and local health workers risking their lives in Ebola treatment units set up in clusters of white tents. The UK is supporting this work, primarily in Sierra Leone, but also Liberia and the region. I urge your readers to give a few bob to charities like MSF, whose brave staff are struggling to stem this terrible disease.

Fergus Cochrane-Dyet

British ambassador, Monrovia

Moustache bashing

Sir: In 1914’s British army regulations it was mandatory to have a moustache. How times have changed, with The Spectator leading the charge against them. In 2012 Toby Young tried to grow a moustache and failed, commenting upon his hate for them. Now (18 October) we have Rod Liddle telling us that ‘In the 1980s people avoided being in close proximity to homosexuals for reasons other than their appalling taste in music or their moustaches.’

What comes next from your mighty organ to abuse those who wear them?

Francis Osborn

Weymouth, Dorset