I retired from the NHS in 1989.

The final 19 years were spent as chief nursing officer to a group of London hospitals. It was a group which took much pride in high standards of care.

I read the recent articles by Maura Thompson and Lesley Hallett and the letter from Roy Lilley (pages 30-31 and page 22, 19 July) and for the first time since my exit from the NHS feel I must comment.

The articles were lucid but so depressing. There is no doubt that overall standards of care in the NHS at this point are very low. I visit friends in hospital frequently and observe the standards described. The care of the elderly, in particular, desperately screams for improvement.

Because of my own background as a nurse, I believe that unless we find ways of improving overall nursing care then the service will continue to crumble. We need to return to a nurse education system with an emphasis on practical care. We need to see a return of the ward sister with real authority over all services within the hospital area. Above all, we must re-introduce a matron figure with full control within each hospital. At present, no one seems to know who is in charge.

I wonder just what is the present function of the nursing department at the Department of Health. Are they aware of present problems? I am dismayed that the Royal College of Nursing shows no leadership.

May I suggest that health secretary Alan Milburn and members of his team spend a short period as in-patients in hospital. This should be in a main NHS ward without any special service. They may then begin to understand just how low the standards are.

Tom Kerrane East Sussex