A new prescription
Sir: It is maddening to see the British people being refused face-to-face GP appointments and subjected to a form of health rationing that should have ended decades ago (‘Dr No’, 12 June). In Australia a Labour government solved the problem in 1975 by separating payment for healthcare from provision of healthcare. The government gave everyone a Medicare card that could be presented to any accredited healthcare provider. The provider would be paid at a set rate per procedure and send the bill to the government. The result is a truly responsive healthcare system where the patient comes first, is treated with respect and courted by a competitive and creative ecosystem of public, private and third-sector providers. Supply meets demand, unlike in the UK.
If Britain adopted an NHS card that could be used with any provider, queues and rationing would end and healthcare would remain free. This is a workable solution to the UK’s underperforming healthcare sector. The British people and healthcare workers deserve much better.
Primrose Hill, London
Sir: The response from the director-general of the National Trust to Charles Moore (Letters, 12 June) simply confirms the view that she has completely lost touch with reality. She should do the honourable thing and now resign with her former chairman. A previous chairman, Dame Jennifer Jenkins, used to emphasise how important it was to keep close to members and respect any local expertise. She also espoused some kind of humility among its leaders, a quality which Ms McGrady and her fellow zealots appear to lack.
Sir: I enjoyed Ysenda Maxtone Graham’s article about the ludicrous ban on congregational singing of hymns inside our churches (‘Let hymn in’, 12 June). I share her longing to get back to belting them out once again. However, she described this as the ‘government’s Roundhead approach’. The Civil War era Roundheads were rather fond of congregational singing; indeed, the New Model Army marched into battle singing psalms. If anything the ban could be said to be Cavalier, rekindling the spirit of the act of uniformity when Christian worship was heavily regulated — and independent congregations banned — by the restored monarchy. Perhaps comparisons with the 17th century are inadequate to describe the folly of the current ban. I am looking forward to getting back to singing soon.
Sir: I must take issue with the comment by Roger Alton that ‘English football has a huge problem with racism, as anyone who has spent more than a few minutes surrounded by supporters will tell you’ (Sport, 12 June). I am not sure which team he supports, but it must be at least 25 years since I heard racial abuse shouted at a player from supporters around me. There are certainly angry words shouted at players, regardless of colour, if it is felt they are not trying hard enough. I have been going to Everton since 1970, when there was terrible racial abuse at times — but anyone racially abusing a player now would be in trouble. I also watch non-league football at AFC Fylde, and have never heard any racist abuse there either. That is not to say racism never occurs at football, but it must be rare. Perhaps Roger follows football through Twitter and social media, where there are lots of halfwits spewing their poison.
Sir: Mr Andrew McLean (Letters, 5 June) laments the confusing colour-coding of Walkers crisps. Why are they alone in choosing green bags for salt and vinegar and blue for cheese and onion? I believe I know the answer. The father of one of my childhood friends claimed to have grown up in Leicester and bought chips (and later crisps) from Mr Walker’s shop. Back then, the only flavouring was salt and vinegar, as befits a chippy-bought product. Mr Walker sold his crisps in green bags, to differentiate them from London-based Mr Smith’s crisps, which were in blue bags. This was actually a helpful bit of branding in a world of only one flavour, until a few years later when cheese and onion came along. Green became the colour of choice for this flavour, leaving Mr Walker as the odd man out, using blue and green ‘the wrong way round’. Unfortunately the gentleman who told me this tale is no longer with us. Can any of your wise readers confirm if this was true, or just a delightful yarn?
Tin hats on
Sir: Your correspondent was both wrong and right to assert The Spectator’s cartoon was in error showing soldiers ‘confronting a Gunpowder Plot member… in 1605… wearing the celebrated “lobster” helmet of the New Model Army’ (Letters, 5 June). They could have worn such helmets because they were not, as Mr Emsley says, created during the Civil War 40 years later. As early as 1600, ‘lobsters’ were standard European cavalry helmets, derived from the Polish zischägge which itself came from the 16th century Çiçakof the Turks. They were certainly not unique to parliament’s New Model Army. Nonetheless Mr Emsley was right to say soldiers capturing the religious terrorist Guy Fawkes would not have worn lobsters but only because, if they wore a helmet at all, they would almost certainly have had the high-crest, curve-brimmed infantry helmet, the morion.
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