Letters: Face-to-face GP appointments are a crucial part of the return to normal

SIR – Shortly before the relaxation of lockdown restrictions I received a text message from my surgery (Letters, August 24) informing me that “despite restrictions easing on July 19 we still continue to operate the same as we have since the start of the pandemic”. My feeling on receiving this was that, if we cannot rely on the NHS to lead us by example out of the current risk-averse mentality, there is little hope we will ever return to normal. Robin Lane
Devizes, Wiltshire

SIR – My husband rang the surgery for an appointment with his doctor. The receptionist said the doctor would phone him to discuss his request. She phoned him later that morning and, when he asked to see her, she said she was working from home.

I despair. Anne Fieldhouse
Ramsey, Huntingdonshire SIR – I recently had a face-to-face consultation with my GP and, having dealt with the reason for my visit, the GP then identified something completely unrelated.

As a result, I am now undergoing a series of tests. Had I only been able to have a telephone consultation this condition would not have been picked up. Colin Parsonson
Gravesend, Kent

SIR – My GP practice uses an online system called eConsult for handing all patient inquiries and appointments. I used to be a software designer and, had I been asked to design a system intended to give the appearance of enabling patients to contact their GP while actually preventing them from doing so, I would have come up with something pretty much like eConsult. The only alternative to using it is to telephone the surgery, wait in a long queue, attempt to persuade a reluctant receptionist to ask a GP to phone back, then be prepared to wait in all day for the call to come.

When I want to make an appointment for our dog to see the vet, the phone is answered immediately and the dog is seen within the hour. Stephen Harris
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire SIR – The GP practice I attend offers a telephone appointment as a first port of call, very often on the same day.

This is better than a face-to-face appointment for things like asking for a prescription if an old ailment recurs. It saves a 20-minute drive to and from the surgery and the doctor’s valuable time. I trust this will continue on request after normality returns.

If deemed necessary, I have been invited to a face-to-face appointment that day or the next. On one occasion I had an X-ray two days later. The care offered by this practice has been exemplary during the pandemic.

The main changes I have seen are that the walk-in blood test clinic has closed and I have to make an appointment for my warfarin level control. Ian Lander
Oswestry, Shropshire

Boots on the ground

SIR – What price now the Government’s Defence Review, which cuts 9,500 soldiers from the Army on the brittle promise that “technological advantage will mean that greater effect can be delivered by fewer people”? If the last few days in Afghanistan have shown anything, it is that numbers count.

Strategic patience is all – you must have the critical mass to sustain an operation. The Defence Review removes that capability. Technology can and must facilitate our soldiers, but it cannot replace boots on the ground.

After all, it was not technology that enabled the Taliban to roll up Afghanistan in a matter of weeks, a feat that came as a strategic surprise to the West. The context in which the Defence Review was conceived has changed. Afghanistan is a disaster of strategic proportions with implications for our foreign policy, defence policy, for Nato and for our relationship with the US.

If Britain wishes to retain any credibility and relevance with allies and adversaries alike, its response cannot be to cut 9,500 soldiers from the Army. The Government must revisit the Defence Review; these cuts have to be reversed. Lt Gen Sir James Bucknall
Deputy Commander of Coalition Forces, Afghanistan (2010-11)
Blandford Forum, Dorset

SIR – Referring to the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, France’s foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, says that “France does not forget those who have worked for her”. This is demonstrably untrue. In Indochina in 1954, France signed the ceasefire and abandoned the French and indigenous men of the GCMA, anti-guerrilla squads operating deep in enemy territory.

They were hunted down and killed by the North Vietnamese over the following three years. In Algeria in 1962, the French abandoned the Harkis, several thousand men who had fought as auxiliaries against the rebels. They, too, were hunted down and killed.

The foreign minister should make sure of his history before making such vainglorious pronouncements. David Miller
Newton Abbot, Devon

Heat pumps: a history

SIR – Having had a ground source heat pump at work in our Victorian-era house for some 15 years, I remain astonished at the level of ignorance about these excellent devices. It was demonstrated by the Business and Energy Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, with his claim that heat pumps “are still in their infancy” (Interview, August 22).

In fact, they have been in Swedish homes since the 1970s. The technologically innovative company Robert Bosch has specialised in manufacturing them for many years. Stephen Hazell-Smith
Penshurst, Kent

Fine feline dining

SIR – My grandparents had a cat called Smokey (Letters, August 23), upon which my grandmother doted.

Once, when I was staying with them as a boy, my grandfather came in from the garden and asked: “What’s for lunch then, Daisy?” My grandmother’s reply was: “Well, there’s a bit of liver the cat won’t eat.” My grandfather was the gentlest of gentlemen and I never once heard him swear, but on this occasion he came close: “Well, if the blessed cat won’t eat the blessed stuff, then I’m certain I’m not going to.”

I seem to recall a cheese sandwich being served. Robert Mizen
Holt, Wiltshire

XR grandstanding

Letters: Face-to-face GP appointments are a crucial part of the return to normal

SIR – Extinction Rebellion is disrupting London again (report, August 24). I’ve heard interviews with representatives or sympathisers, and only once were they asked why they don’t protest in Beijing.

No answer was given.  Britain produces a tiny fraction of global carbon emissions, whereas China produces a large percentage and is still opening coal mines. Extinction Rebellion protests in Britain because it can.

Our laws facilitate it and it gets maximum publicity. Beijing would have no truck with this, as the protesters know, but it would show deeper commitment if they tried. Their current approach is cowardly and sensationalist.

Jennie Naylor 
East Preston, West Sussex 

Open-air schools

SIR – Critics dismiss as impractical the Government’s recommendation of outdoor school classes to curb Covid outbreaks (report, August 19), but they forget the successful open-air school movement begun in 1907 during England’s tuberculosis pandemics. Fresh air was considered essential to prevent transmission of disease and improve metabolism. These schools were a government initiative, run by school medical services and part of an international movement driven by the medical profession.

Tuberculosis, like Covid-19, affected all of society, and there was no cure until the 1950s. Early schools were like bandstands with open sides, but many were designed by architects, with sliding glazed screens on three sides, verandahs or many windows. Often classes were held outdoors.

Knee rugs were provided to keep children warm. Frances Wilmot
Leamington, Warwickshire

Chesterton on Nazis

SIR – In his criticism of G K Chesterton, Richard Ingrams (Review, August 21) overlooks the fact that, almost alone among men of note in the 1930s, Chesterton alerted people to the dangers of the Nazis. One recalls his cartoon of Hitler bending all the arms of a cross into the form of a swastika, with the legend: “Heaven forbid I should glory but in the Cross of Christ.”

Reading Mr Ingrams’s critique reminded me of Chesterton’s line on St Francis, after Bishop Barnes said he was probably verminous: “He is … bitten by funny little creatures still”. Iain Colquhoun

Matchbox labels can be miniature works of art

Striking: the label for a box of Japanese matches from the early 20th centuryCredit: Alamy

SIR – The replacement of wooden matchboxes by cardboard ones was a sad day for phillumenists as well as model-makers (“Telegraph helps matchstick man keep his model hobby shipshape”, report, August 23). Collecting the printed labels, some minor works of art, kept many a child occupied – soaking them off, putting them in order, and learning from their advertisements.

I still have mine. Philatelists probably feel the same way about the boring postage pre-printed on letters, which is now replacing colourful stamps, but at least Royal Mail keeps up interest with special issues. Peter Saunders
Salisbury, Wiltshire

Driven to distraction by delays at the DVLA

SIR – I too have been having difficulties since applying on June 3 to renew my driving licence (Letters, August 24), which has now expired.

I completed an eye test at Specsavers but after several weeks was informed that the DVLA had not received my test report. I was asked to return to Specsavers to sign another form, so presumably my application is now once more at the bottom of the pile. The chief executive of the DVLA, Julie Lennard, formerly worked at the National Archives.

She must now have an archive resulting from complaints at the complete lack of service. Doreen Turner
Horsham, West Sussex SIR – I will be 73 in July 2022.

Should I apply for the renewal of my driving licence now? Nigel Hodder
Blandford Forum, Dorset SIR – Two months ago I posted my over-70s renewal form and licence to DVLA Swansea.

As I sent it via recorded delivery I received confirmation from the post office that it had reached its destination promptly. Since then I have heard nothing from the DVLA and it has been impossible to make contact by phone (I hung on for ages and was then cut off) or by email (I filled a form in and at the end was asked for a number, which was supposedly sent to me when the DVLA acknowledged my application. I had received no acknowledgement or number).

I am becoming increasingly worried as I am now driving without a licence. Lucretia Williams
Bedford SIR – John D Frew (Letters, August 23) seeks to prove the status of his driving licence.

This can be done on the DVLA website under “View or share your driving licence information”.  This only requires the licence number (which he would have if he is renewing) and his National Insurance number. The status of his licence will promptly be revealed and can be shared with anyone else who needs to know, such as car hire companies.

Martin Hodson
Loughborough, Leicestershire

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