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No such thing as an ideal heating setting | Letters

16/10/2017 Letters 0

A thin lady is likely to feel colder than a plump one. A recent sample in English homes recorded living-room temperatures from 10C to 25C, explains thermal comfort researcher Sue RoafAs a thermal comfort researcher, men often complain to me that their …

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Tackling the silent epidemic of loneliness | Letters

16/10/2017 Letters 0

Mike Adamson would like to see more services that prevent, reduce and delay loneliness, and Susan Daniels says it is not just a problem for older peopleWe welcome the focus given by Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard on the toll that loneliness is placing …

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Broadening the debate on mental health | Letters

15/10/2017 Letters 0

David Dodd wants employers to assume a degree of responsibility for employees’ mental wellbeing, Justin Harper makes a case for income protection and Gary Fereday says psychoanalytically informed therapies should be more widely available. Plus letters …

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The need to tackle London’s toxic air | Letters

10/10/2017 Letters 0

Jeremy Simons of the City of London Corporation wants to see existing diesel private hire vehicles removed from fleets as soon as possible, and Tompion Platt of Living Streets wants more children to be able to walk to schoolIt is of real concern to rea…

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Britain also has a fatal overwork problem | Letters

09/10/2017 Letters 0

Regularly working 49 hours or more a week is associated with a significantly increased risk of stroke, writes David Hardman of the London Hazards CentreYour report on the death from overwork of the Japanese reporter Miwa Sado states that 80 hours of ov…

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Ritual observance of PM’s pious pause | Brief letters

09/10/2017 Letters 0

‘Invalid carriage’ jaunts | Frequent photos of Theresa May’s church visits | Missing Notes and Queries | Babies and bathwaterMy father had one of those three-wheeled “invalid carriages” designed for driver only (Lorraine Gradwell obituary, 4 Octob…

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The true cost of sugar is more than its price | Letters

04/10/2017 Letters 0

Alison Tedstone of Public Health England says that the food industry must put any savings made from the falling price of sugar into research against its damaging effects on health. Michael Tribe says we must consider the impact of sugar prices on developing countries

In response to your article (Beet that: sugar prices set to fall as EU quotas abolished, 29 September), whether sugar costs pennies or pounds, the food industry knows the government target – 20% – on how much of it they need to reduce from their products by 2020. We are monitoring industry progress against these targets and will report on it in spring. The fact remains that children eat too much sugar and it causes weight gain, which can lead to bullying, low self-esteem and tooth decay. Excess weight in childhood also increases the risk of becoming an overweight or obese adult, which will increase the likelihood of developing a range of cancers, heart diseases and type 2 diabetes. If the food industry is about to save money on sugar, it will hopefully make more resource available for research into innovative ways to make products healthier.
Dr Alison Tedstone
Chief nutritionist, Public Health England

• The article by Richard Partington is remarkable in discussing the implications of EU sugar production and pricing policy for the UK and EU economies, but completely fails to mention the implications for world sugar trade and particularly for the potential impact on lower-income countries. There was space in the print version of the Guardian for a large photograph of a pile of sugar, but no space for any reference to the role of the sugar trade on the welfare of developing countries. This, of course, is consistent with the EU switch of major responsibility for policy relating to developing countries’ trade matters from the directorate of development to the directorate of trade. Perhaps we can look forward to another article in the near future which deals with the wider implications of changes in EU policy on the sugar market for global trade and development issues?
Michael Tribe
Glasgow

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Resurrect services that help UK’s young people | Letters

03/10/2017 Letters 0

Our well-funded (now demolished) statutory Youth and Community service provided safe spaces where skilled workers built trusting relationships, writes Annette Rimmer

Ciaran Thapar (There’s no quick fix for knife crime, but there is a solution, 27 September) is spot on about there being no quick fix for young people’s issues. Youth and community workers work in a preventative way, heading off serious issues including mental distress, racism, relationship abuse and extremism. Our well-funded (now demolished) statutory youth and community service proudly offered an informal, preventative curriculum and provided safe spaces where skilled workers built trusting relationships with children, young people and adults. Since the demolition, so many well-trained youth workers now labour over funding bids rather than doing this crucial work. We hear some great youth centres have been sold off for £1. Of course, resurrecting the statutory youth and community service and reaping the results will take time – that’s probably why it’s absent from party manifestos.
Annette Rimmer
Manchester

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Not enough hospital beds and GPs closing | Letters

03/10/2017 Letters 0

Dr Nick Mann says the King’s Fund report on hospital bed numbers is clear evidence that safe capacity in the NHS has been exceeded. Plus letters from Penny Elder and Michael Craig Watson and Emily Clare Baxter on GPs shutting up shop

Though thin on detail, CQC chief inspector of hospitals Professor Ted Baker’s belief in “an NHS fit for the 21st century” refers to the FYFV/STP’s app-driven, remote access and remote monitoring, downskilled vision of a tech-heavy health service. Here, increasing numbers of older people will not become acutely or terminally ill in a way that requires admission to an inexorably reducing number of hospital beds, services and staff per capita, because this will have been prevented by sheer willpower, neglect of the facts, and narrow repetition of misused research statistics. For instance, it is sheer and demonstrable nonsense to suggest that half of patients in hospital “don’t need to be there”. Probably 5%, maybe up to 12%.

Presumably, hospital staff are “piling patients into corridors” because of an embedded culture of cruelty, not due to year-on-year defunding of essential services in a safety-critical system. With record deficits in 2016 of £3.6bn (not £700m as stated by DoH), did hospitals throughout the country really become fiscally incompetent suddenly since 2012?

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We’re not too posh to wash, we just lived through the war | Brief Letters

03/10/2017 Letters 0

Bathtime routines | Regional galleries | Paying more tax | Piebury corner | Theatre tickets

Vivienne Westwood, like me, although a few years younger, was brought up in the austere 1940s and 50s when hot water was a precious commodity and people bathed once a week. So far from becoming “too posh to wash” (G2, 3 October), she has carried on much the same as many of us of the same vintage.
Marie Paterson
Nuneaton, Warwickshire

• No need to visit Cornwall to see a superb collection of art from St Ives (Letters, 2 October). Head to Orkney instead. While visiting friends, we discovered the Pier Arts Centre in Stromness has a collection to rival the Tate, including Alfred Wallis, Barbara Hepworth, Patrick Heron, Terry Frost, Naum Gabo, Peter Lanyon and Ben Nicholson, alongside Orkney greats such as the sublime Sylvia Wishart. Admission was free.
Robert Wilson
Horsham, West Sussex

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Irish voices raised for choice on abortion | Letters

28/09/2017 Letters 0

Alison Hackett on why she will be joining Saturday’s March for Choice in Dublin

When women have no access to abortion their lives are in danger (Emer O’Toole, 28 September); when women have some access to abortion (within a legal framework) they live in a safer world. I recommend Mike Leigh’s film Vera Drake, set in the 1950s. Abortion was available to women of means (doctors called it something else). Women at the bottom of the pile – destitute, sex workers, teenagers, raped – found compassion in an ordinary woman who would help them end their pregnancies when they found themselves facing a brick wall.

In 1916, after opening the first birth control clinic in the US, Margaret Sanger was arrested for distributing information on contraception. For women to have a more equal footing in society Sanger believed they needed to lead healthier lives and be able to choose when to bear children. She also wanted to prevent, as far as possible, so called back-alley abortions. Sanger’s parents were Irish born. Her father, Michael H Higgins, was a Catholic who became an atheist and activist for women’s suffrage. Her mother, Anne Purcell Higgins, went through 18 pregnancies (11 live births) in 22 years before dying at the age of 49. I will be joining Dublin’s 6th Annual March for Choice this Saturday. Our voices will be heard.
Alison Hackett
Dublin

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A novel way for a library to move its books | Brief letters

28/09/2017 Letters 0

NHS chant | Relocating libraries | Ryanair | Unsplit infinitives

I don’t know which is more appalling – that Paul Watson, NHS England’s regional director for the Midlands and East of England, demanded that hospital trust chief executives chant “we can do this” (improve their A&E performance) (Report, 26 September), or that the chief executives apparently complied with this demand and didn’t protest about it till afterwards.
Marion Jones
Preston, Dorset

• When Worthing got its new library in the early 1970s members were encouraged to take out as many books as they liked. They could then bring them back to the new building which saved us a lot of backache. The shelves in the old library were soon empty except one that contained the complete works of Proust (Letters, 28 September).
Jane Taylor
Milborne Port, Somerset

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Safeguarding young people’s mental health | Letters

27/09/2017 Letters 0

Wendy Burn of the Royal College of Psychiatrists says we must boost the numbers of child and adolescent psychiatrists; while Cathy Street and Dinah Morley say society needs to do more to acknowledge the challenges facing mixed-race youngsters

It is very disappointing news that the number of child and adolescent psychiatrists has fallen almost 7% since 2013 (Number of NHS psychiatrists for children falling, 25 September) in the same year that the government pledged “focused action” to improve mental health support to help “our youngest and most vulnerable members of society receive the best start in life”. The government has pledged 100 more child and adolescent psychiatrists to help meet their target of treating 35% of children and young people with mental illness – which in itself is just the tip of the iceberg. The only way we can begin to tackle this unmet need is by persuading more trainee doctors to choose psychiatry. The government is trying to make it as easy as possible for trainee doctors to choose a career in child and adolescent psychiatry.

We are working closely with Health Education England to devise a range of measures aimed at boosting staff numbers. One example is a new training pathway that makes it easier for trainee psychiatrists who know they want to work with children to choose this speciality at the start of their training. The government acknowledges that half of all mental health conditions become established in people before the age of 14. Failing to value children and young people’s needs now risks leading to more long-term, costly problems in the future.
Professor Wendy Burn
President, Royal College of Psychiatrists

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How Tate St Ives can win round the locals | Brief letters

27/09/2017 Letters 0

Tate St Ives | New age nonsense | Harold Wilson in Chatham | Tony Booth | Reading Proust all through

The Tate organisation (The new Tate St Ives: great gallery, pity about the flats, 27 September) would probably get a more favourable reception from the people of Cornwall if it removed the entrance fee to the St Ives gallery. I have asked both Nicholas Serota and Maria Balshaw why all their other galleries have free entrance, but it costs £9.50 to go to the St Ives outpost. I can only imagine that they don’t like the Cornish? Perhaps if they removed this anomaly they would find less “local resistance” to their extension plans.
Roderick Clarke
Truro, Cornwall

• You print a photo of a man with buffalo horns placed on his back to increase blood circulation (You think you get back pain?, 27 September), but the accompanying caption ends with the ludicrous new age suggestion that this “helps to stimulate the flow of energy in the body”. Energy does not “flow”, blood does: this is straight out of Gwyneth Paltrow’s risible Goop Lab, which Rory Carroll recently anathematised (Sex dust and vampire repellent: a stroll through Gwyneth Paltrow’s first shop, 22 September).
Dr Richard Carter
London

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The PFI contracts that keep costing the taxpayer | Letters

26/09/2017 Letters 0

Readers respond to shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s pledge to bring billions of pounds’ worth of PFI projects and their staff back under government control

In your editorial (26 September) on John McDonnell’s proposal that PFI contracts be bought back by a future Labour government you suggest that any such action might be constrained by the need to persuade the financial markets to continue to lend the government money. This was an error on your part: this constraint does not exist.

Firstly that is because no government has to borrow. Quantitative easing proved that. In the UK the government (via the Bank of England) has done £435bn of QE, with the result that the government owns nearly a quarter of its own debt now, effectively cancelling it and all the interest payments due on it in the process. What this means is that another £58bn of QE could be used to cover capital costs of PFI without any difficulty. The remaining cost of buying out the service element may be little more and since QE debt carries no interest cost, there may be precisely no cost at all to buying these PFI contracts back into government control as a result. This was precisely the basis of People’s QE, which I created in 2010 and which was one of the platforms on which Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour leader two years ago. In that case the idea that we are beholden to the bond market “confidence fairy” (as Paul Krugman so aptly named it) when proposing such a move is just nonsense. The fact is that if bond markets are truculent any government can just work around them.

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Extend Abortion Act to Northern Ireland | Letters

26/09/2017 Letters 0

The change would be of immediate practical help to women there, writes Mary Pimm, as they currently run the risk of imprisonment if they take abortion pills obtained online

You say that repealing sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 “would be more symbolic than practical” since “it would not change abortion practice under the 1967 Abortion Act” (Report, 23 September). This is not true in Northern Ireland, where the 1967 Act does not apply. The change would be of immediate practical help to women there, who currently run the risk of imprisonment if they take abortion pills obtained online. It would also assist doctors and midwives who currently feel too scared to provide information about abortion clinics in England because they are unsure if giving even this very limited advice is illegal. We should commemorate the 50th anniversary of the empowerment of women by the 1967 Abortion Act as positively as we recently commemorated the empowerment of men by the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, and should take the opportunity to remove this antiquated law as sought by the Royal Colleges of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and of Midwives, and the BMA. We should also extend the 1967 Act to Northern Ireland so that women there can enjoy the same right to choose as in the rest of the UK, which is supported by the overwhelming majority of our country.
Mary Pimm
London

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