Our duty to keep the NHS public

SIR - This Government is seriously dismantling the National Health Service and has admitted there is no limit to the amount of NHS work they are prepared to hand over to the private sector.

The NHS is being replaced by a health insurance system which will cost the taxpayers extra. Money intended for NHS hospitals is leaking into the private sector at an alarming rate. As a result, hospitals are being forced to cut back on services and close wards, beds and clinics.

The Government believes that we, the patients (now known as "customers") should "shop around" when in fact all we want is a prompt, quality service from our local hospitals and GPs.

The money squandered on glossy brochures, public relations consultants and marketing companies should be spent on patient care and on the professionals who administer the care.

Recent polls show nearly 90 per cent of the electorate believes the NHS should be run as a public body and not by private companies for profit.

The NHS is clearly not safe in the hands of this present Government and it behoves us all to keep our NHS public.

Philomena Hingston, Leaventhorpe Avenue, Fairweather Green.

Our caring school

SIR - Your article 'Nine city schools on city hit-list' and comment 'A record that must improve' (T&A, February 24) show concern.

I cannot speak for other schools but must speak out for Beckfoot. Our recent Ofsted inspection ("Beckfoot is a good school poised to be outstanding") shows Beckfoot's truancy level is "satisfactory/in line with the national average."

Parents and others rightly concerned about truancy whatever the level should know that Beckfoot has for many years had a system of electronic recording that tracks students throughout the school day. They are not simply checked at the required registration times.

This system shows real and consistent care for those young people. All at Beckfoot continue to work to raise standards and aim to achieve even better attendance levels.

Any "hit-team" called into Beckfoot will, of course, be made welcome.

Barry Robinson, Chairman of Governors, Beckfoot School, Bingley.

Losing our talent

SIR - Eamon Devlin (T&A Letters, February 20) claims that the UK begged to join the EU; in reality we signed up to what we thought was a "free trade area".

The writer claims we are responsible for our own immigration. Why is it then that when Michael Howard, in an attempt to convince people he was "anti-EU", put tighter immigration controls at the heart of his election campaign, the EU publicly announced that he could not adopt this policy as Mr Blair had already opted in to the "common asylum system" and had signed directives that are binding across the EU?

The "popular" argument that our NHS could not survive without immigrant doctors and nurses is also misleading. It seems to imply that we don't have enough of our own. In reality we do, but mass immigration of foreign doctors and nurses brings reduction in their salaries which in turn sees our home-grown doctors and nurses either turning away from the profession or seeking better-paid jobs abroad.

Not only are we losing our own well-trained health professionals but so are the countries who export their doctors and nurses leaving their own health services severely depleted.

Jason Smith, Town Gate, Wyke, Bradford.

Privatisation faults

SIR - This month commemorates the tenth anniversary of when private train operators first started to provide services on the main rail network.

Some people will argue that privatisation has been largely successful in terms of increasing passenger numbers, and will cite the example of the GNER train operating company which runs at a profit and has increased the number of its services on certain routes.

However, privatisation has resulted in a fragmentation of the industry, with increasing costs arising from the high level of subsidies paid to most train-operating companies, the high cost of leasing rolling stock, increased costs of maintenance which until recently was largely sub-contracted, and ever- increasing fares.

In contrast British Rail ran one of the most cost-effective railways in the world and presided over an integrated system which allowed greater co-operation within the network.

Unfortunately British Rail was the victim of successive governments' lack of investment and political interference which prevented the network being modernised in a gradual process over many years, the consequences of which are discernible today.

While it may not be possible or even desirable to return to a 1948-type nationalisation, some form of public ownership would be preferable to the current situation.

Alec Suchi (Bradford Rail Users' Group), Allerton Road, Allerton.

Killer question...

SIR - In my letter (T&A, February 16) regarding murderers held on Death Row, I clearly stated that I was not "taking sides" in the contentious death penalty/life sentence issue.

However, since P E Bird has "rubbished" my opinion (his word, not mine), he must, without doubt, vehemently support the death penalty for anyone who inflicts death on another living creature (T&A, February 24).

I do not resent Mr Bird's comments. We are all entitled to our own opinions. Nor have I any wish to carry on a vitriolic exchange of correspondence.

However, his response has given me the opportunity to ask someone of obviously strong beliefs a very relevant question.

As Mr Bird believes so firmly in the death penalty, would he be prepared to administer it?

Barbara Crompton, Collier Lane, Baildon.

God's humour

SIR - Your letter-writers ask the question "Does God have a sense of humour?"

Of course he has! He has encouraged Bradford Council members to contract with various private companies to deliver services to the people of Bradford knowing how inept the Council is at this activity.

He has caused the members to trumpet the wonderful achievements which would flow from these agreements. He has laughed mightily when He has seen how badly these private companies have performed while being hugely rewarded by our council for providing less for more money.

I wish I had God's sense of humour or, at least, His limitless resources because when, as a council tax payer I am faced with the bill for the Council's poor contract management, I am more inclined to cry than to laugh.

K J Trocki, Birchdale, Bingley.

Look to home...

SIR - Re Mr Holmans's letter (T&A, February 21). It does not matter how you define the cause of death as regards the soldiers because in the first place they are in a foreign country sent by Tony Blair and him only, not the British people.

Iraq has nothing to do with us, or their troubles, and our invasion was of a country with which we had no connection, or even fear for our own wellbeing, so it was illegal.

If any country cannot manage its own affairs or the tyrants who rule it, it has nothing to do with this island, or its people.

Tony Blair's thoughts and deeds should be directed to the problems that we have in our own country, and the utter mess we are having to contend with, due to his mismanagement.

But no! And why? He is far too busy leaving us every other week to flit about interfering with everybody else's affairs.

Then what will happen when he finally decides to go? He will have found a niche somewhere for him to smugly retire to - not in this island but away somewhere so he can sit back and forget what legacy he has left behind.

B J Rudd, Roger Court, Undercliffe.

Looking for clues

SIR - I am seeking information about my great aunt. Her name before she married was Eva Silvester, born in 1915 in Stainforth, Doncaster.

Her parents were Charles William Silvester and Susannah (nee Wilkinson). Her husband was called Karl and I think their married name was Hennenesy. They had two sons and one daughter Freda. My grandma Maud Temperton often visited them in Bradford.

Miss S A Temperton, 13 Princess Avenue, Stainforth, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, DN7 5RN.