So, the research from Virginia Commonwealth University confirms what we’ve long known: that despite spending enormous sums on their healthcare, Americans are sicker and die younger than people in other rich nations (Report, 11 January). Even more shocking is the level of ignorance within the US about just how appalling their health is compared with other nations. We could look on with pity if our own government were not introducing “reforms” that are driving us into an US-style healthcare system; this despite all the evidence that it is inefficient and bad for our health, and by a government that has no electoral mandate. If we are to have a referendum on Europe, let’s have one on the NHS “reforms”.
The US research is especially interesting because it reveals that even America’s privileged white middle class fares badly. Everybody benefits from a healthcare system into which we all pool our resources – and everyone suffers when our health is left to the mercy of profiteers. In Britain we have built a complex and successful welfare state founded on socialised healthcare, universal benefits and a comprehensive system of social security. How alarming that we are allowing it to be sold off to the locust capitalists. I don’t know how we are going to explain it to our grandchildren.
Emeritus professor Mark Doel
• I am very concerned at the government’s proposed cuts, which clearly seek to turn our NHS over to private businesses. In south-west England we can see the start of that process as 20 NHS trusts have signed up to a cartel with the express purpose of cutting the terms and conditions of health workers. This is at a time when NHS trusts are being forced to make massive cuts that will affect patients. An open meeting to discuss the NHS changes is being held tomorrow at Bristol University and there is a demonstration in Exeter on 23 March to keep the NHS free and in the public sector.
Unite the Union, Bristol
• The government has fairly successfully convinced the public that a large proportion of benefit recipients are claiming illegally. The Guardian, among other commentators that have looked more carefully at the facts, seeks to dispel this myth. However, the government is now doing its best – through its support of organisations such as Cure the NHS – to put about another myth: that NHS institutions are, at best, riddled with inefficiency and, at worst, totally uncaring.
I have been a patient more than once at the much reviled Stafford hospital. The treatment I received was pretty good, though perhaps not always perfect. Any organisation – particularly a large one – will get things wrong from time to time and, obviously, every effort must be made to keep this to a minimum. Stafford, it would appear, got things wrong more often than most hospitals; but most of the time, I think, they got it right and we should not lose sight of that fact. I would not discourage anyone from having treatment there.
I hope that those who are seeking to nail the benefits myth will have enough energy to dispel the NHS myth as well. Maybe everyone who has had a good experience of the NHS should write to both the provider of that service and to the media to tell them about it.