News that NHS managers are reinforcing guidelines aimed at protecting the neutrality of their service is absolutely laughable when so many of the same people enthusiastically supply “extras” for unnecessary visits by government ministers (NHS staff ‘prevented from sharing views during campaign’, 18 November). I suspect most of us would rather hear the truth about the state of local services from a clinician, nurse, paramedic or porter than the secretary of state for health or prime minister delivering a speech to camera.
There is a pattern here, in which suppressing the parliamentary report in Russian influence in elections is the most publicised and recent; others include the chancellor’s refusal to undertake an impact assessment on Johnson’s Brexit plan, and a previous health secretary’s refusal to publish the risk assessment associated with his reforms – even after the statutory information tribunal had ordered publication. The Local Government and Housing Act 1989, driven by Mrs Thatcher’s irritation with a small number of senior local government officers, prevents those whose role involves providing advice to elected members, from holding office in political parties, or even writing to the local press on matters which could be considered political. Which incoming government will be bold enough to repeal that draconian law?
• NHS staff will always be an important source for information about what’s going on in the NHS. When managers’ quest for neutrality bans this, how about they write (“name and address supplied”, perhaps) to the Guardian? Then their outline might be researched, contextualised etc and written up for all to read, as in another report in the same edition (NHS shortage of dozens of medicines leading to rationing, leaked files reveal, 18 November). We must know what’s going on in our NHS, and the Guardian is reliable, whereas social media not so much.
Dr Jane Frances
• Can I suggest those working in the NHS unburden themselves to their friends, who, like reporters in the media, might quote a source close to the NHS. Those friends just might choose to use social media.
Dr Philip Scown (non-NHS)
• The graph showing the decline in the proportion of A&E patients seen within four hours is very revealing (NHS England’s A&E waiting times worst ever recorded, 15 November). It clearly shows how a slight decline under the coalition steepened considerably after the Tories gained unfettered power in 2015. And now they want us to think their promises of giving billions to the NHS – totalling less than that cumulatively lost – will solve the problems. But the damage done by the neglect of maintenance and loss of staff will take a decade to put right; staff cannot be found overnight. As ever, it costs more and achieves less if ongoing needs are left unmet than it does to keep up to date.
• A few years ago I had cancer, and when I picked up an infection during chemotherapy an ambulance took me to Brighton A&E. Throughout my cancer, the majority of the staff who cared for me – from my consultant to the cleaners on the wards – were born outside the UK; without their care, I would be dead. I see from your report that A&E waiting lists are their worst ever, while the Conservative party is promising to cut immigration. The NHS relies on staff from all over the world. Without immigration, people in Britain will die.
University of Sussex
• In the debate on NHS funding, it’s hard to grasp what the promised billions mean. There is one way to measure how well-funded the NHS is – comparing global health expenditure. Based upon World Bank data, the UK spends 9.8% of GDP, France 11.5%, Germany 11.1% and the US 17.1%. The NHS has been chronically underfunded and the burden is borne by patients and staff.
Prof Colin Pritchard