Letters: Plans to bolster the NHS’s woke bureaucracy are an insult to patients

Ministers have repeatedly promised to crack down on bureaucracy, with NHS England ordered to cut its total workforce by up to 40 per cent
Ministers have repeatedly promised to crack down on bureaucracy, with NHS England ordered to cut its total workforce by up to 40 per cent - Hollie Adams/Bloomberg

SIR – Steve Barclay, the Health Secretary, is said to be “frustrated” that the NHS is planning to create three “woke” departments, with an estimated staff cost of £14 million (report, September 18).

If he’s frustrated, how does he imagine it feels for taxpayers, seeing yet more of their money being diverted away from front-line NHS workers and treatments?

Peter Rosie
Ringwood, Hampshire

SIR – Your report on the NHS’s plan to establish three new departments along woke lines suggests a confrontational relationship with the Health Secretary, who has done a good job cutting down waste in his department. 

Despite Andrew Lansley’s reforms putting the NHS at arm’s length from government, taxpayers and the Government are the health service’s paymasters, and it is clear that ministers want front-line services to be enhanced and bureaucracy curtailed. If Amanda Pritchard, the NHS chief executive, cannot respond to such democratic requests, she should be sacked.

Michael Staples
Seaford, East Sussex

SIR – I am not in favour of the doctors’ strikes, which cause immense harm and suffering to patients as they are pushed ever further down the interminable waiting lists. The principle of “First, do no harm” appears not to apply anymore.

However, I can understand why junior doctors might feel outraged by the plan to create three new departments, at great expense, to focus on equality and LGBT issues when there is apparently not enough money to give them the pay rises they want. 

I don’t believe a single one of the nearly eight million patients awaiting treatment would feel this is a good use of taxpayers’ money.

Dr Fiona Underhill
Woodford Green, Essex

SIR – I have a tumour in my bladder and was due to have it removed this Friday. I was aware of the doctors’ strike, but hoped that my surgery would still go ahead as planned.

However, I’ve now been informed that the surgery has been cancelled. The letter I received said that this was “unavoidable”, and asked me to forgive any “inconvenience and distress” that may have been caused.

Anthony Macdonald
Devizes, Wiltshire

SIR – Health chiefs recently claimed that one in six GP appointments is being taken up by a patient who does not need to be there. 

Has it occurred to them that, under the current system, patients may simply have recovered over the several weeks it generally takes to move from booking the appointment to actually being allowed into the consulting room?

Charlotte Burgess
Sapcote, Leicestershire

The future of HS2

SIR – As somebody who lives in a village close to the end destination of the HS2 railway line (Letters, September 18), I am well aware of the construction that is going on.

There is a relentless clamour to stop the line. What is never explained by those wishing to halt the project is where the money will come from to return the land to its former state. In any case, the prospect of cancelled contracts will have the lawyers rubbing their hands in anticipation.

G J Crofts 
Meriden, Warwickshire

Last post

SIR – Over the past few years, Royal Mail (Letters, September 18) has changed the final collection times at the post boxes around me, leaving two that offered a late collection at 4:30pm Monday to Friday.

Now it has surreptitiously announced that all of the six nearest post boxes will have a “final” daily collection “no earlier than 9am Monday to Friday and 7am Saturday”. 

By way of justification, Royal Mail states that “in order to improve efficiency we’re reviewing our mail collection arrangements and revising collection times”. I find the use of the word “final” to mean “before breakfast” to be intriguing. Previously one could get one’s post by noon, and post a reply later the same day.

Given that there is also to be an increase in first-class postal charges (from 95p to £1.25 in 18 months), I cannot but wonder if this is a cynical ploy to dilute the “next-day delivery” target. Recently it took five days for a second-class letter to reach me from my GP surgery – 550 yards away.

Keith Appleyard
West Wickham, Kent

Watched dogs

SIR – Your correspondent suggesting that registration of dogs should be made compulsory (Letters, September 15) is barking up the wrong tree: since 2016 it has been compulsory in England and Wales for dogs to be microchipped and the owner’s details recorded on a national database.

Nick Bennett
Keighley, West Yorkshire

National Trust decline

SIR – Visiting a National Trust property in Shropshire, we were disappointed to find that the house was closed because of a shortage of volunteer guides.
Having travelled 100 miles, we were left viewing a few sparsely furnished rooms and a garden. Why does the National Trust imagine it has lost so many volunteers, and does it expect the public to continue subscribing each year?

Miranda Hawkyard
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

Top traveller

SIR – You suggest (telegraph.co.uk, September 16) that Philip Wharmby, who has visited 106 countries or territories, may be your most widely travelled reader. I have been to 114 countries, and I exclude the Isle of Man, British Virgin Islands, Macao, Hong Kong, Gibraltar, Northern Cyprus and Transnistria, as they are not widely recognised as countries.

I will soon be adding to my total. After reading your article last year about taking a trip with Lupine Travel to Algeria, I went on this trip myself. One thing led to another and I have joined the company as a tour leader. I’m off to Iraq very shortly.

Ian Huddart
Tonbridge, Kent

Retailers’ costs

SIR – Michael Wheatley-Ward (Letters, September 18) raises interesting points regarding rents on commercial premises. 

It is, however, wrong to interpret “upward-only” rent review clauses in modern leases as meaning that the rent necessarily increases.

Upward-only simply means that the rent stays where it is, unless market forces show that a higher figure is justified. Without the certainty of a rental flow, investment in commercial premises would be almost impossible to fund.

From long experience as a professional in commercial property, I conclude that rent is a small element of a retailer’s budget, rather than the nightmare it is often said to be.

John Breining-Riches
Chagford, Devon

Better sausages

SIR – Your report (September 16) that “Waitrose is to start using plant-based skins on its pork sausages” suggests that we’ve changed our casing to reduce costs. 

In reality, the change saves a fraction of a penny per sausage – and is negligible compared to the cost price of the outdoor-reared, high-welfare pork we have put into our sausages, sourced from farms we know and trust.

We’ve simply responded to customer feedback that found our pork casing a little tough. The move certainly hasn’t been driven by cost; in fact, we’ve invested in additional machinery to produce sausages with the new casing.

What’s important to our customers is that our sausages taste delicious, and are made from quality pork, from fairly paid British farmers. And that’s not something we’re prepared to compromise on.

Kate Smith-Bingham
Trading manager, Waitrose
London SW1

Garrulous greetings

SIR – Christopher Howse’s article (Features, September 14) on the decline of “Dear” and “Yours sincerely” in letters and emails reminded me of the time when I received a letter from the Passport Office which began: “The Chief Passport Officer presents his compliments to Mr P Rowe and begs to inform him…”

I also had an uncle who signed off letters to the tax office with: “You remain sir my most obedient servant”.

Philip Rowe
Broseley, Shropshire

Planning reform that will spoil the countryside

Rural idyll: a cow looks through the window of a stone shed in the Yorkshire Dales
Rural idyll: a cow looks through the window of a stone shed in the Yorkshire Dales - alamy

SIR – We are deeply concerned to learn of the Government’s plans to rip up the planning protections that keep our national parks beautiful by allowing permitted development rights for conversions of barns and other rural buildings.

National parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty are our finest landscapes, and even small changes can have a disproportionate impact in these places. If these proposals go ahead, they will lead to a free-for-all on the development of isolated residential units in unsustainable locations without the supporting infrastructure, and could add significant pressures in terms of water pollution and traffic.

Where once there was a field barn standing isolated in a hay meadow, there will be a pocket of suburbia, and this will be repeated throughout the landscape, creating sprawl and spoiling everyone’s enjoyment of nature, open space and tranquility.
We recognise the need to provide more affordable housing across the country, but residential barn conversions in remote places like the Yorkshire Dales National Park would do nothing to help and would instead cause irreparable damage to our fragile countryside.

National parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty are living landscapes that must adapt over time, and the current approach to planning does a difficult job well in balancing progress with protection. The Government should shut the barn door on these disastrous proposals before the horse bolts.

Rose O’Neill
CEO, Campaign for National Parks
Michael Hill
CEO, Friends of the Lake District
Adrian Leaman
Chair, North Yorkshire Moors Association
Kate O’Sullivan
Chair, The Exmoor Society
David Sawyer
Chair, Friends of the South Downs
John Ward
Chairman, Friends of the New Forest
Tom Usher
CEO, Dartmoor Preservation Association
Paul Rice
Chair, The Broads Society
Tom Platt
Director of advocacy and operations, The Ramblers Association
Kate Ashbrook
General secretary, Open Spaces Society

Inconvenient truths about Wales’s 20mph limit

SIR – It is a sure sign of a bad policy that supporting material is easily shown to be misleading, as in the case of the claim that the new 20mph speed limit in Wales will only add one minute to journey times (Letters, September 18). 

Anyone with basic arithmetic skills will immediately recognise that this can only apply to one journey length, and a couple of simple sums later that this distance is about a mile – well short of the average school run. 

The truth is that, for a trip of five miles under this new limit, the journey time is increased by some five minutes, meaning a total of an extra 20 minutes per day for the school run – quite difficult for a busy parent to find.

Brian Whittingham

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