SIR – Over the past 20 years, the NHS has become reliant on doctors providing extra capacity by working at weekends and in the evenings.
However, in the past 18 months a considerable amount of capacity in the NHS has been lost due to a poorly thought-out pension policy, which penalises senior staff when they do extra work. Many clinicians have retired or dramatically cut back on their clinical workload.
Extra capacity in the NHS must be found urgently to cope with the coronavirus crisis, as we are already running on empty. We must make the most of our current active workforce.
The new Chancellor’s first budget must unshackle us from this crippling policy. Tinkering will not suffice; people’s lives will depend on it.
Dr Pete Ford
SIR – I agree wholeheartedly with Dr Michael J Shield’s sentiment (Letters, March 6) that we need to get a sense of proportion over the coronavirus epidemic. There is already a far more serious one going on: obesity.
Thanks to this devastating and widespread problem, far more people now die from being overweight than undernourished. Encouraging healthy eating and exercise from cradle to grave would lead to a much healthier population.
Pressure on the NHS would be reduced and people would be better able to fight off new infections. Let viruses spread through healthy populations and herd immunity builds up, providing protection even for the more vulnerable among us.
SIR – You report (March 7) that all pensioners may be asked to stay at home as part of the fight against the spread of the coronavirus.
As a pensioner who goes to the gym five days a week, plays tennis, practises tai chi and volunteers at a charity, can I seek clarification from the Government as to what additional risk I am posing in comparison to some other sections of society?
SIR – In the Seventies, when I was a member of St John Ambulance, we undertook home-nursing courses, under the watchful eye of tutors at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London.
The idea was that we could provide basic care at home for ill people, possibly saving hospital beds in a national emergency, or be used as volunteers and give supplementary assistance to the NHS.
This was discontinued, as we were told it would probably never be needed and that the NHS could cope.
Eastbourne, East Sussex
SIR – On Saturday morning, in my local Waitrose, the customer in front of me bought 16 tins of stuffed olives. Does he know something we don’t?
Jeanna Marie Gallagher
SIR – According to research conducted by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), there has been a decline both in the population and range of tawny owls (Letters, March 7) in Britain since the Seventies.
This resulted in the species being moved from green to amber in BTO’s birds of conservation concern lists of 2015, indicating a moderate decline in the breeding population over the previous 25 years. As the causes of this decline are not fully understood, BTO carried out new surveys of tawny owls in 2018 and 2019 to investigate population trends.
The barn owl was a far more common species at the beginning of the 20th century than it is today, but numbers have recovered from a low point in the Seventies and Eighties, and the most recent population estimate is somewhere between 4,000 and 14,000 breeding pairs. The last national survey, carried out between 1994 and 1997, put the population at around 4,000 breeding pairs.
Both species may seem to be more evident at this time of year, but for different reasons. Tawny owls, being highly territorial, are more vocal during the winter months as they re-establish their territories prior to nesting in late March and early April. Barn owls, which are mostly nocturnal, are often forced to hunt during the day between periods of adverse weather because their feathers are not as water-repellent as other species, meaning they cannot hunt during periods of rain, of which we have had rather a lot recently.
Conservation Officer, Barn Owl Trust
Bravery in Burma
SIR – I was so pleased to read that Field Marshal William Slim’s Forgotten Army (Letters, March 5) has been recognised for the bravery of its soldiers, who went through the sheer hell of the Burma campaign.
I am proud that my uncle, Eric Shakespear Miles, a tank commander, was involved in and survived the crucial Battle of the Admin Box. He was a volunteer from Argentina who joined the 25th Dragoons and was later posted to India.
The successful defence at the Battle of the Admin Box against unrelenting assaults by the Japanese was said by Lord Louis Mountbatten and Field Marshal Slim to be the turning point in the war with Japan, halting the Japanese advance into India.
New Malden, Surrey
SIR – Andy Bradshaw (Letters, March 6) rightly highlights the enforced generosity of small business managers, who collectively employ more than 15 million people in Britain. The credit crunch forced many of us to cash in pensions, take second mortgages, sacrifice our salaries and cancel retirement plans just to pay staff, taxes, suppliers and to support customers. Now our Government threatens to abolish another important lifeline: entrepreneurs’ relief.
Introduced by Labour in 2008, it set a lower fixed rate of tax on capital gains to encourage people to grow their businesses. It compensates owners for their personal hardships and risk-taking. Abolishing it would send stark warnings to anyone thinking of starting a business.
Wrotham Heath, Kent
Albert Hall ticket sales
SIR – The Royal Albert Hall is still not doing enough to defend consumer rights by discouraging ticket sales at above face value and printing the names of ticket owners on all event tickets. Could this be because some of the Hall’s own members are profiting from selling seats through intermediaries?
Tickets costing £150 for a Bryan Ferry concert next Wednesday are currently being offered for £232 each, plus fees. No one is suggesting that this is illegal. If you are fortunate enough to own seats in the Hall, you can dispose of your tickets as you will. But the Albert Hall is a charity. Should commercial operators be governing a charity that can directly influence their income and the value of their investment?
Former president of the Royal Albert Hall
Speak up for freedom
SIR – As the Government raises concerns about free speech after Amber Rudd was no-platformed at the University of Oxford (report, March 6), the University of Kent is set to welcome the Oxford historian, Professor Selina Todd.
Predictably, there have been calls to no-platform her and an open letter was circulated warning about “hate speech”. The university’s leaders ruled that the invitation will not be rescinded, in line with its policies on free speech and academic freedom.
It would be wrong to imagine that academics are oblivious to the importance of what is at stake. In response to my support for Professor Todd’s visit, colleagues across many disciplines have told me that they agree with the university’s decision.
We are alert to the importance of tolerance as the central value of academic life, disagreement and debate. We understand the dangers of the idea that someone should be prevented from performing their normal academic duties (giving a lecture) on the spurious grounds that they are a threat to others’ welfare. Academics must speak up, and leaders at universities need to follow Kent’s example. This will be much more effective than any new law.
Professor Ellie Lee
University of Kent
Sock and awe
SIR – Last week a friend was concerned to see me pushing an orange into my son’s favourite rugby socks. Not possessing a darning mushroom (Letters, March 7), I find it is a good substitute when mending holes.
Time for the greasy spoon to make a comeback
SIR – William Sitwell’s article (Features, March 6) on the closure of so many top-name restaurants prompts me to wonder if the time has come for a return of places to eat that sell good food at affordable prices.
What has happened to the old corner café, with its giant teapot on top of a water heater serving fresh tea all day? It was ideal for breakfast on the way to work, lunchtime breaks and for meeting up with mates later in the day.
Peñíscola, Castellón, Spain
The close-minded BBC should be more diverse
SIR – Iain Dale makes excellent sense in his piece, “The BBC appears blind to its London bias” (Comment, March 6).
Auntie is at the heart of a liberal establishment that did its best over the last three years to overturn the result of the 2016 Brexit referendum.
The BBC’s palpable prejudice against Boris Johnson was part of this campaign, which continued right up to the recent general election, when the nation finally had its decisive say.
The BBC must rediscover objectivity. It insists on all manner of diversity in its ranks: gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and so on, but steadfastly refuses to encourage the only diversity that matters: diversity of opinion.
How refreshing it would be to hear a few presenters diverge from permanent virtue‑signalling.
SIR – The BBC receives a great deal of flak for being biased, and indeed parts of it undoubtedly have been of late.
However, it is wrong to treat the BBC as one entity. It is split into many operational segments and, apart from news and current affairs, some documentaries, the occasional Left‑leaning so-called comedy show and pure anti-Government rhetoric, the vast bulk of its output is excellent.
In respect of its bias, one has the option to turn it off and be happy in the knowledge that the BBC, in much of its controversial programming, while irritating, is merely preaching to the converted.
Overall, it is an amazing organisation and credit should be given where it’s due.
SIR – The Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, hit the nail firmly on the head with his comments on the “narrow urban outlook” of the London-centric BBC (report, March 5).
I find it increasingly difficult to recognise the beliefs, values and real people of my country in much of its output, which claims to portray British life.
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