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In receipt of mounting evidence that the NHS bureaucracy is broken : Letters

I’m ditching my suit to create a more relaxed mood for young players at Euros : Gareth Southgate
Published Time: 16.05.2024 - 02:40:25 Modified Time: 16.05.2024 - 02:40:25

Plus Punitive council taxes; being paid to lose weight; in praise of GK Chesterton; and the joys of formality in everyday conversation Martin Pope/Martin Pope SIR – I can sympathise with Ben Wright’s article, “How ailing technology has brought the NHS to its knees” (Features, May 15)

Plus: Punitive council taxes; being paid to lose weight; in praise of GK Chesterton; and the joys of formality in everyday conversation

: Martin Pope/Martin Pope

SIR – I can sympathise with Ben Wright’s article, “How ailing technology has brought the NHS to its knees” (Features, May 15).

In March I had a straightforward test in hospital for a minor medical complaint. Early in May I received an making a telephone appointment for a date and time in July to receive the result of the test. This was followed by a text message and another referring to a letter available through the NHS website with the same information. 

Last week I received a letter in the post from my consultant stating that the results of the test had been entirely satisfactory and that no further action was necessary. 

Yesterday I received a letter in the post confirming the telephone appointment in July, when presumably I’ll be given the same information.  

Richard Fletcher Newmarket, Suffolk

SIR – The NHS Trust where I work remains largely a paper-based bureaucracy. Notes are collected daily and prepared for scanning, and take approximately 48 hours to get to the computer system after discharge. The system is not tied to any other Trust, so documents must be requested by outside Trusts or GPs. There have been some improvements: obstetrics and neonatal health have used BadgerNet to coordinate national records, for example, though the progress remains slow. All neonatal critical care documents, up to this week, are handwritten.

The clinical portal is accessed via a smartcard, which is not available to all staff, and which is not used to log in to other programmes. This causes duplication of processes and wastes time. Login details themselves can waste time. My Band 3 team leader had to spend 30 minutes on the phone to IT recently because a new security system disallowed her password. Nobody in IT had the new guidelines to hand, only a vague awareness of generic instructions such as “don’t use real names”. 

On the topic of telephones, our system still doesn’t include recorded calls, answerphone capability, or even hold music, and as we have a collection of different telephones gathered over 20 or so years, some are not capable of forwarding outside calls.

I genuinely love working for the NHS, and the race to AI solutions would mean a mass cull of jobs, for which the economy is not perhaps prepared. That said, the entire enterprise is resting on a mountain of folders, photocopies and sticky labels.

We could do so much better than this.

M K AshtonManchester

SIR – Perhaps one reason why the NHS is slow to embrace modern computer systems is that doctors rightly dread the prospect of patients expecting to be able to them.

Huw BaumgartnerBridell, Pembrokeshire

The King on canvas

SIR – Now that is a portrait fit for a contemporary monarch (“Yeo masters the fine art of painting a modern royal”, Special report, May 15) – a fabulous and powerful work. Congratulations to all concerned.

Tony ParrackLondon SW20

SIR – While it is splendid that the King’s concern for butterfly conservation is shown in his new portrait, it would have been even more appropriate had the butterfly depicted been British.

Peter StockwellEly, Cambridgeshire

Brazen shoplifting 

SIR – Archie Norman, the chairman of Marks & Spencer, claims that the police are “not interested” in dealing with shoplifting and that retailers are being forced to spend “a lot of money” trying to keep crime rates down (Business, May 14). 

However, if my recent experience is anything to go by, it seems that some retailers are not interested in dealing with shoplifting either.

I was with my mother and sister in a Sainsbury’s store where school-age children were brazenly taking items off the shelves and putting them in their pockets and bags. My sister immediately notified a nearby member of staff, only to be told: “It’s no good – we can’t do anything about it unless a member of staff sees it themselves.”

Eyewitness testimonies are accepted by the police, courts and other agencies in the criminal law system. Why are they not accepted by Sainsbury’s? 

If this sort of attitude is prevalent among supermarkets, it’s no wonder they experience such a high level of shoplifting – which ultimately increases costs for customers. 

David WallerGillingham, Kent

SIR – In the vast majority of stores, one can now wander in and out without coming anywhere near a till. 

If the only way out was past a series of manned tills, there might be less shoplifting.

Andrew ShanksUckfield, East Sussex

Food and climate

SIR – The Government’s drive to protect food security (report, May 14) is heartening. 

Please be assured that solar farms pose little threat – installing the targeted 70 gigawatts would require a land area equivalent to only about 0.5 per cent of English farmland. 

However, as the Government itself recognises, climate change is the biggest risk to British food production, with the extreme wet winter projected to knock up to a quarter off Britain’s wheat harvest this year. Cheap, renewable energy is essential to reducing this risk.

Tom LancasterHead of land, food and farming Energy and Climate Intelligence UnitLondon SE1

Hungover from home 

SIR – As enthusiastic City beer drinkers, my friends and I tend to avoid certain pubs on Friday evening. We refer to it as “amateur night”.

It’s quite simple: don’t drink on a “school night” if you can’t function the next day.

However, in light of Suzanne Moore’s analysis of British working habits since the pandemic (Features, May 14), I might have to think harder about Thursdays now.

John HopkinsBeckenham, Kent

Punitive council taxes

SIR – I am in a similar position to Katherine Hayes (Letters, May 14) regarding council tax. 

When our mother died in 2021 I bought my sister’s half of the house so she could give the value to her grandchildren while they were young. The 1988 house was never updated and I have been trying to save enough to modernise to rent or sell.

However, my local council now charges 200 per cent council tax as it is an empty house. 

I have to pay my normal council tax on my main property so, as a state pensioner on the old lower rate, I will never save enough to do the necessary update – and may have to sell at a loss.

Stephen DayBrierley Hill, Staffordshire

Paid to lose weight

SIR – Weight-conscious individuals already pay millions to support our ever-growing fat population. That the NHS is now giving obese people hundreds of pounds to lose weight is outrageous (report, May 15).

The Government should be doing the reverse – taxing the overweight and incentivising them to improve their health. That would be fairer. 

Tony TigheDevizes, Wiltshire

SIR – The Government could easily reduce both obesity and tooth decay by putting graphic images of rotten teeth on all high-sugar food and drink.

Peter WellsNorthampton

SIR – Being obese is almost a badge of honour today. Contestants on many television quiz shows are often clinically obese. 

Presumably broadcasters would not show someone smoking or drinking, so why show off obesity?

William RusbridgeTregony, Cornwall

Blame it on the birdie

SIR – In 1959, aged six, I was allowed to stay up to watch Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson perform Sing, Little Birdie in the Eurovision Song Contest (Letters, May 14). We were hopeful of victory until, out of the blue, Teddy produced a horrible little plastic bird and began whistling to it. This more than likely scuppered their chances of winning.

They only managed second place, so there was a lesson to be learnt: never do anything unexpected, embarrassing or controversial if you want your entry to succeed. How times have changed.

Pamela MawdsleyOrmskirk, Lancashire

Why GK Chesterton still deserves to be read

: Chronicle/Alamy/Alamy

SIR – I am surprised that Simon Heffer found so little in GK Chesterton’s output to pique his interest (Hinterland, May 11). 

Among the poems, I defy him not to be moved by “A Marriage Song” or “By the Babe Unborn”, nor remain indifferent to “The Rolling English Road”, nor appreciative of the satirical poems. Equally, his liberal instincts would warm to some of Chesterton’s attacks on the pre-1914 Liberal government for extending the arbitrary power of the state in matters such as sentencing, “mental deficiency” and national insurance. Then there was his support for the British monarchy (where he differed from Hilaire Belloc). 

Of course, Chesterton’s writing was variable, being produced at speed for wide audiences; but modern readers can still find insights there denied to them by contemporary authors, including in the “dense” works of theology, some of which are the most accessible of their kind.

Julia StapletonBishop Auckland, Co Durham

The joy of formality in everyday conversation

SIR – I agree wholeheartedly with Richard Cheeseman regarding overfamiliarity (Letters, May 15), with “guys” being a particular dislike, alongside “mate”. However, I see no reason why he shouldn’t be called “sir”. Too many people see this term as one of subservience, whereas it is actually just a polite way of communicating with someone you don’t know – as I did when starting this letter.

When travelling abroad, it is an absolute delight to hear the persistent use of monsieur and madame in shops and restaurants. Long may it continue.

Ian FitterHelston, Cornwall

SIR – I was on holiday in the Lake District last year, and when walking through a busy market was accidentally backed into by a young man. 

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