Letters: How can more junior doctors’ strikes be justified when waiting lists are so long?

·9 min read
People attend a protest in London by junior doctors, amid a dispute with the government over pay - May James/Reuters
People attend a protest in London by junior doctors, amid a dispute with the government over pay - May James/Reuters

SIR – In recent years the British Medical Association has taken an increasingly militant approach in its demands for better pay and improved working conditions.

The recent 72-hour strike by junior doctors caused immense disruption to patients, many of whom have had their operations delayed for months. Now these doctors are proposing to strike for a further four days and calling for a 35 per cent wage increase (report, March 24).

This action will cause yet more suffering for patients. Such militancy does not sit well, and is surely in breach of the Hippocratic Oath.

Peter Stowe
Woodbridge, Suffolk

SIR – As a patient waiting for a diagnosis on a painful hip, and as a taxpayer, I feel the junior doctors’ demands would be reasonable only if, in return, we were to receive the sort of service provided 25 years ago: GP appointments on the day, drop-in A&E, ambulances within minutes and “elective” surgery in reasonable time.

B H Sherrad
Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire

SIR – The junior doctors have a disagreement with their employers over how much they are paid.

They have, however, been unable to produce an argument sufficiently strong to persuade their employers to accede to their demands. As a result, they have chosen to vent their frustration by deliberately punishing their blameless, helpless patients.

That is appalling. I wouldn’t have been able to hold my head up if I had done that when I was a junior doctor. For goodness’ sake, get off your high horses, call off the strikes, sit round a table and sort out an agreement, as other NHS workers have done.

Dr D P B Pound
Daventry, Northamptonshire

SIR – I would be interested to know which tasks Richard Meddings, chairman of NHS England, feels new doctors are over-qualified to carry out (“Shorten training for doctors, says NHS chief”, report, March 22). I suspect most are the result of pointless management initiatives.

A return to an apprentice model of training would be welcome. In the 1960s, when I qualified, we spent two years in academic study and the next three on the wards or in clinics, learning on the job. This also included the opportunity to act as a student locum for junior doctors.

Successive changes in the NHS, and the application of educational theory, gradually disrupted this system.

Mr Meddings clearly does not appreciate the complexity of diagnostic methods needed, particularly by GPs. The ability to identify the “black swans” of serious illness presenting early amid the mass of routine complaints requires a large breadth and depth of knowledge. Arguably, training should be longer rather than shorter.

Dr Robert Walker FRCPE
Workington, Cumbria

Boris Johnson’s fall

SIR – There is a sadness to the fall of Boris Johnson (Letters, March 24).

His intelligence, charisma and bonhomie were just some of the traits that endeared him to people. His focus on the big issues enabled him to achieve Brexit, oversee the world’s fastest Covid vaccine rollout, and provide first-class statesmanship in his support for Ukraine.

Earlier this week we saw a different man. No longer prime minister, and hauled before a committee of MPs, Mr Johnson appeared downcast and angry. Unfortunately, his good qualities seem to exist alongside an appetite for power without accountability and a casual attitude towards the rules. These things are not easily forgotten. But perhaps, in time, we might forgive him.

David Platts
Newark, Nottinghamshire

SIR – Mr Johnson said the “leaving drinks” at Downing Street at the height of the pandemic were essential for work and boosted morale. Could he not have extended this leniency to old and sick people, who were left to die alone without their loved ones?

Michael Rosner
Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex

Ofsted’s approach

SIR – I agree with Geoff Barton, of the Association of School and College Leaders, that Ofsted inspections need to become “less punitive and more supportive” (report, March 23).

In the Army, my team and I conducted several audits designed to ensure that commanding officers were managing their units effectively. This was certainly no punitive expedition – indeed, an unsatisfactory outcome would be viewed not only as a failure on the part of the unit, but also on the part of my team.

Playing safe and passing a unit regardless was never an option, as it could have serious consequences. Our approach was therefore to partner with the unit, conduct pre-inspections, respond to calls for advice and generally share the burden. This may have been more resource-intensive, but it also ensured that the process was more constructive.

Lt Col Lyndon Robinson (retd)
Mursley, Buckinghamshire

SIR – Ofsted would be the first to criticise teachers and schools that encouraged pupils to give single-word answers to complicated and sensitive questions (report, March 24).

Chris Gillibrand
Swainby, North Yorkshire

Dickens doesn’t need to be given a darker twist

What larks, Pip: the poster for David Lean’s classic 1946 film adaptation of the novel - bridgeman images
What larks, Pip: the poster for David Lean’s classic 1946 film adaptation of the novel - bridgeman images

SIR – It was bad enough when Roald Dahl’s books were being torn to pieces, but then I read of the upcoming version of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations by Steven Knight (Arts, March 18), best-known as the writer of Peaky Blinders, which apparently features drugs, swearing and Empire bashing.

Who thinks they have the right to change so much in a story – not just words, but characters and happenings? There is so little good drama on any channel, and we could once count on the BBC to produce true-to-text versions. Instead, however, it is following the trend.

Louise Drummond
Lindal-in-Furness, Cumbria

SIR – Call me old fashioned – I am 62 years old – but I was bemused by your report (March 21), “Miss Havisham becomes addict in darker twist on Dickens”.

The stories and plots of Charles Dickens are some of the greatest ever written. Miss Havisham does not need to be rewritten as an opium addict – she is already deliciously creepy. And Mrs Gargery in S&M sessions with Mr ­Pumblechook – oh please!

Jayne Gray
Little Melton, Norfolk

SIR – We are told that Steven Knight’s adaptation of Great Expectations will contain anti-Empire and anti-colonial messages.

As Mr Knight is a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, can we expect an absence of irony in this production?

Richard Hall
Belper, Derbyshire

SIR – Charles Dickens’s novels have always supported the little man. They need no tampering with.

Anne Langley

SIR – I agree with Anita Singh (Arts, March 21), who asks of the latest “jazzed up” version of Great Expectations: “Why make it at all?”

At school in the late 1960s, this novel seemed to be on the syllabus every year, the only benefit being that I memorised so much of it that finding the appropriate quotes for essays was easy.

Dickens always struck me as a cinematic writer, as both his dialogue and scene setting are vivid. There is, however, a rich world of literature that could be brought to the screen without going over books that have been better filmed in the past. Making a classic into another Peaky Blinders is also doing that series a disservice, putting one in mind of the various cinema franchise films categorised by numbers.

Great Expectations is not Peaky Blinders 2.

Jeannette Meyers
Ashford, Kent

BBC priorities

SIR – The BBC has suspended its plan to scrap the BBC Singers, following offers of "alternative funding" (telegraph.co.uk, March 24). I would much rather my licence fee was used to pay for this choir, and alternative funding found for Gary Lineker.

Alice Barber
Edgware, Middlesex

SIR – As BBC radio continues in its quest for self-destruction by removing Rev Richard Coles from Saturday Live on Radio 4 (report, March 24), I would like to thank him for his 12 years of excellent service.

In future I will be tuning in to Classic FM on Saturday mornings.

Alan Bristow
Little Neston, Cheshire

SIR – Charlotte Runcie (Arts, March 24) reflects on the sadness of Rev Richard Coles’s departure from Saturday Live.

It’s a sadness shared by us all. He is a warm, intelligent and witty broadcaster. We had hoped to welcome him to Cardiff when the programme makes the move in April. Understandably, with his busy schedule and competing demands, it was not something he felt he could do.

However, Ms Runcie goes on to question the rationale for the BBC moving programmes out of London. I should declare that I’m a Scot living in Wales, and have never lived or worked in London. From that perspective, shouldn’t the question be: why not? The BBC has gone to great lengths to build talented teams in different parts of the country, providing an economic benefit to the new locations and enabling staff to deliver world-class output from the place they call home.

I hope we will hear Rev Coles on Radio 4 in the future, wherever he broadcasts from, but there is a clear benefit of a BBC that is made by and for everyone across the UK.

Colin Paterson
Head of BBC Audio
Wales and the West of England

Probate mysteries

SIR – Alison Morison (Letters, March 24) asks who is in charge of the probate process. I found it was, inexplicably, the minister for justice and tackling illegal migration. I received a letter dated November 30 2021 from Tom Pursglove, the then minister, in response to my MP’s request for action from the probate office.

There is little point writing: there may be a sympathetic response, but nothing will be done.

We eventually received the grant in late January 2022. Perhaps we were luckier than some.

Bill Todd
Whitton, Middlesex

SIR – It’s not just the probate office that seems to have stopped functioning. Try getting a power of attorney.

Charles Pugh
London SW10

Squirrel watch

SIR – In our previous garden we had beautiful trees on the boundary. Then grey squirrels (Letters, March 24) started stripping the bark, causing the death of large branches and saplings.

Local woods have also seen much damage from these furry interlopers. Worse still, I saw one recently with a small bird in its mouth. Are they becoming carnivorous? I thought we were trying to conserve our countryside, not let this non-native species destroy it.

Jo Jeffery
Saffron Walden, Essex

SIR – My method of dealing with squirrels and other unwanted visitors is a water pistol – £3.99 well spent.

Ann Roberts
Market Harborough, Leicestershire

Babyish bins

SIR – I share Stephen Knight’s aversion to anthropomorphic messages on products (Letters, March 24). The council in Edinburgh has taken this infantilisation one step further with: “I’m a bin, put your litter in.”

Sadly, few do.

Guy Bargery

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