MPs should walk in the shoes of tired nurses | Letters

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Polly Toynbee says the press hasn’t been allowed to scrutinize frontline NHS services (iron-eared Liz Truss is obsessed with tax cuts, so why shouldn’t NHS nurses do the strike?, September 12). Fortunately, patients and their loved ones can still do so. As a parent, I can report from weeks of scrutiny from a busy oncology ward in a London hospital that the NHS embodies what it means to be human. I witnessed patience, tenderness, warmth, skilled medical care, comfort, and careful consultation with patients about their choices.

I also sometimes see a lone figure in blue, a doctor who has no time to sit down and eat in the middle of the night. I see the exhausted faces of nurses who manage to reassure anxious patients and their families, and who are thorough in meeting all their patients’ needs, despite working 13-hour shifts in difficult circumstances. Underpaid and undermined by our government, these hardworking workers need our help. If they go on strike, I will be on the picket line – and I urge anyone who has ever needed or might need the NHS to join them in solidarity.
Drusilla Long
Leeds

Polly Toynbee’s article quotes the General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, Pat Cullen: “The new Secretary of State should take the time to walk in his [exhausted nurses’] shoes for a week.

These are important words. All MPs should spend time seeing how the other half live, not just the challenges faced by NHS staff. They should be forced to live in substandard housing, find support for the elderly or child care, and balance household budgets through universal credit. Perhaps then we will see a movement towards greater fairness in the way the country is governed.

The World Bank has in the past run a “village immersion program” for key staff, giving them the opportunity to live in a developing country and experience first-hand the consequences of poverty, inadequate water and sanitation and lack of access to health care. Since MPs seem to have no formal training, they may need a similar induction before entering the Commons.
Bill Kingdom
Oxford

In your report (Millions of UK Patients Forced to Privately Amid Record NHS Waiting Lists, 11 September), Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, reminds us of the founding principle of our NHS: that it caters to everyone and does not discriminate according to whether people can pay. For the past 12 years, the NHS has been starved of adequate funding. One might think that this could be partly due to a desire to encourage mutuals to set up.

Have health service decision-makers focused too much on outsourcing parts of the NHS, when the most pressing need was to deliver effective services to all who need treatment? The public have only been given snippets of information about parts of the NHS being handed over to private companies. The whole truth would amaze us all.
Alan Kembery
Solihull, West Midlands

Why should a person with limited financial resources be denied the same health treatment as a wealthy person? You can see the government’s strategy: to force as many people who can afford the cost of private medical care to drop out of the NHS so that the government can avoid raising the level of taxation to properly fund the NHS. The same obsession with taxation obviously applies to building homes, treating sewage, preventing floods, education, welfare, public transportation, and so on.
Chris Osman
Oxford

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