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Letters to the Fenland Citizen editor – December 23, 2020

GPs do well with what they’ve got

In reply to two recent articles, I’d just like to say that the sad thing about our GP surgeries and NHS is the years of comparative central government funding cuts that we have endured, while our population has exploded and we are also living longer.

At one time 50 years was seen as having had a ‘good life’, while in Victorian times it was 30 years old if you didn’t work in a factory.

Doctors now have hundreds on their patient lists. Traditionally they would briefly consult your paper or medical records before the appointment. But since computers came in, they are supposed to read the screen before you knock on their door.

Sadly, they don’t even have a chance to do that any more and that’s why when you say: “Will that be okay with my other medications?” they suddenly grab the mouse, scroll down the screen and ask: “What medications are you currently on?”

I must say that our NHS and GPs are doing a great job with what they’ve got.

Mark Burton


Alan Wheeldon's picture of an early morning view of the Clarkson Memorial over the River Nene at Wisbech, taken in October.
Alan Wheeldon's picture of an early morning view of the Clarkson Memorial over the River Nene at Wisbech, taken in October.

The working class need to fight again

B Maddox (Readers’ View, 16 December) makes some very good points about the shortage of GPs in Fenland and the associated problems of even getting an appointment to see a GP.

These problems are common to the whole of the NHS across the country.

On March 2, 2020, as coronavirus cases rose to four in a day, Boris Johnson told us that Britain was “well-prepared with a fantastic NHS”.

Nine months later, no one doubts that Johnson has been economical with the truth from the start.

Tory and Blairite New Labour cuts and privatisation laid the basis for today’s shortage of GPs and the funding shortfalls that now mean millions are denied the health and care service they need.

It is the defenders of capitalism who caused this crisis and these factors alone are enough for a volcano of anger.

But there is more – the cronyism of mates of ministers getting fat contracts in the health service confirm the impression that our NHS is increasingly a health service run for profit.A fightback is necessary to turn our anger into effective change.

The health and care workers fighting for a 15% pay rise show the way. Collective workplace and trade union action has the potential to win.

As long as the decisions of the Tories and the fat cats they represent go unchallenged, our NHS will continue to unwind.

It was the intervention by working-class people, through mass struggle and building their own political voice, that delivered the NHS in the first place.

Today the lessons of that period have never been more needed.

John Smithee


Britain’s housing policy is chaotic

Planning secretary Robert Jenrick’s climbdown over his planning white paper is welcome.

Its core proposal for houses to be built according to a Whitehall formula – the so-called “mutant algorithm” – emerged in August, reputedly at the bidding of the building lobby, eager to boost their development land banks in the south east.

It has collapsed under a barrage of protest from southern Tory constituencies that faced being concreted over and northern cities that Jenrick was going to starve of housing subsidies. The reality of modern Britain is that the local is fighting back.

Others have sought to regulate their own schools or distribute their own furlough grants. But nothing has evoked greater fury than Jenrick stripping local councils of planning powers.

The Jenrick formula demanded that every community in England build a precise number of houses dictated by Whitehall, irrespective of local wishes. It was rumoured to be rooted in the medieval principle that a “local need” for housing was determined by local births, marriages, divorces and deaths, as if today’s population did not travel.

This was then adjusted by price to yield a “need” figure. Such an idea would not have passed first base under most prime ministers, if only for its political ineptitude. He has promised to bring some sanity to his housing formula. He would do better to scrap it altogether. Local people can best judge whether and where they want their communities to grow, and there is no evidence they automatically oppose it.

Besides, they have some collective rights to decide such matters in a democracy. Subsidies should then be concentrated – as Jenrick now proposes – on the renewal of brownfield land, especially outside the south- east. He should honour Johnson’s levelling up. He should worry less about his developers and look at the scandal of empty sites, under-occupancy and housing vacancies.

The rental sector requires urgent review. Property taxes are too low, renting is too insecure, but at the same time incentives to sublet empty space are inadequate. It is absurd that repairs and conversions attract full VAT, while new-build is VAT-free. If Jenrick is bereft of good advice, ask the Germans or the Dutch. For most people a home implies a place someone lives, not a shell. Britain’s housing policy is chaotic.

John White


Group are saviours with wheels

The Fenland Association For Community Transport, otherwise known as FACT, is a charity serving in and around Fenland, East Cambridgeshire and Huntingdon areas for people that have difficulties using ordinary and conventional modes of transport.

Their general aim always has been to provide affordable, accessible and safe transport for those most in need in our local area.

So many have relied on the lifeline provided by FACT, whether it be to get to shops, doctors and hospital appointments, or visit relatives, friends or family, and they trust those that operate, or are employed by, the charitable firm.

They even help a vast amount of local people go to clubs, day trips, day/night trips and holidays as well.

I know a lot of people personally who, without FACT, would have been left to live the loneliest of lives, unable to go anywhere or see anyone, other than faces that appear on their televisions.

I have, for a long time, been amazed at the hope they give the less able in our community and I never thought that I would need to utilise their services. But then COVID-19 hit the UK, the country was shut down by way of the first lockdown, the shielding guidelines came out and I, like many others, was deemed to be extremely, clinically vulnerable and had to shield myself.

During those months again, like many others, when I needed prescriptions collecting from pharmacies, FACT were there, at hand, acting as saviours with wheels, allowing many of us to survive the first lockdown as best we could.

They also did people’s shopping for them and delivered it safely to their doors. Obviously without these services, many would have found themselves forced to go outside and mix with the general public, putting their health and lives at risk.

It must also be noted that the employees of FACT put their own health and lives at risk by working and mixing with the public during such uncertain times, and they did so with big, bright, wide smiles and comforting words to help those that needed them.

FACT, as well as so many other organisations and hubs, helped Fenland get through the initial wave of the pandemic and they still do today, just like they will do tomorrow, and during all the tomorrows that are still to come.

You all helped to keep us safe and well, we salute you all and thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Ashley Smith


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