Letters

Tash Shifrin's news focus 'Private wings, ruffled feathers' and your Comment (pages 12-13 and page 19, 2 November) on the concordat signed by health secretary Alan Milburn and Barry Hassell, chief executive of the Independent Healthcare Association, highlight the likely problems in such a deal.

It seems perverse that the government should take this route when it has already tried to compromise the private healthcare sector.

First it removed the tax advantages from pensioners who took out health insurance, thus adding them on to an already overstretched NHS.

Second, it threatens to penalise doctors and surgeons who practise private medicine in their own time.

Most important, use of the private sector is unnecessary. I quote Alan Milburn: 'If there is capacity available - we should be looking to take advantage of that.'

There is plenty of NHS capacity at Saint Bartholomew's Hospital in central London, where whole wards are lying empty. It seems an unbelievable waste not to use these facilities, which are in excellent condition, to full capacity. The recently closed Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children in east London is lying empty.

Why not use these NHS facilities to the full, before turning in desperation to the more expensive private sector?

This is not only evident in London: the excellent community hospital at Watlington in Oxfordshire has recently been closed.

The Department of Health shows a complete lack of logic in closing a hospital such as this which served its local population (many of whom do not own cars) so successfully, and helped to reduce 'bed-blocking' in the acute hospitals in Oxford.

Ann Toms London WC1