Letters: Deaths from Covid caught in hospital were more than those recorded

SIR – As a medical examiner, I have scrutinised hospital deaths since the start of the pandemic. It was evident early on that significant numbers of patients who came into hospital without Covid-19 were acquiring it there (report, November 9). However, it was not until later that medical examiners were asked to categorise these patients according to the likelihood of infection being contracted in hospital, and to report probable and definite cases for further investigation.

Thus, the true number of patients who caught Covid in hospital and later died must be more than the 11,600 recorded by the NHS. Like Jeremy Hunt, I am appalled by this, and by how long it took the NHS to admit it. Mr Hunt implied that transmission from staff to patients was the main source of infection, but it was clear to me that it was mutual.

Initially, hospitals had no rapid testing. Reliance on clinical diagnosis meant that Covid patients were placed on non-Covid wards, and vice-versa. Wards were overcrowded and staff overworked and in short supply as they too became ill.

Distancing was often impossible due to inadequate facilities, and infection control teams were fighting a losing battle. Most importantly, the NHS totally failed to prepare for such a pandemic. Hospitals had insufficient PPE, too few isolation beds and a paucity of staff to use them effectively.

We are in a better position now, thanks to vaccination, but the problem of poor facilities to control infection remains. This must be the priority, as well as staff numbers. Honesty and transparency from the NHS are also vital if lessons are to be learnt.

Dr David Niblett
Turvey, Bedfordshire SIR – At a local recycling centre, there’s a sign showing the percentage of waste recycled. If hospitals displayed the percentage of staff who have been vaccinated, the public would have an idea of the risk involved in visiting.

Paddy Shillington
Louth, Lincolnshire SIR – Like Sandra Shallcross (Letters, November 11), I was prescribed AstraZeneca as I have allergies, but when I went for a booster jab none was available. I rang 119 for information, but was told to try my surgery.

After queuing for some time, I was told that the concerns about Pfizer no longer apply and I could have it – which I did, with no ill effects. There seems have been a breakdown in communication. Sandra Jones
Old Cleeve, Somerset

SIR – You report (November 10) that French citizens aged over 65 will be required to have had a Covid booster jab if they wish to take a train or go to a restaurant, cafe or cultural venue, and that it is expected that this will also apply to tourists and expats. As British booster jabs are not recorded on the NHS app, how are British visitors supposed to prove that they have had it? Patricia Jagger
Elstow, Bedfordshire

Freedom at university

SIR – Eric Kaufmann (Comment, November 10) says that Britain needs a “university of dangerous ideas”, which stands up for academic freedom and free speech.

We already have one. Buckingham has always been ranked top or in the top group for academic freedom and free speech. Contrary to Mr Kaufmann’s suggestion, we have most certainly attracted a “glittering roster of academics and journalists”, including – space is limited – Sir Roger Scruton, Simon Heffer, David Starkey, Jane Ridley, John Adamson, Luca Turin, David Cannadine and Peter Hennessy.

Indeed, I am continually being approached by leading academics, “refugees” from a system bogged down in woke ideology, who wish to be associated with us. I hope to announce another new name very soon. Professor James Tooley
Vice-Chancellor, University of Buckingham

MPs’ real jobs

SIR – There is nothing wrong with MPs having second jobs (Leading Article, November 11).

Indeed, far too many have worked all their lives in the political bubble and lack experience of the real world. As a result, as ministers they don’t have the skills required. While being a minister is a job, being an MP is not.

It is a calling. Many MPs have chosen to convert themselves into glorified social workers to display their local commitment, but MPs who have not should feel under no obligation to do so. The sole function of an MP is to represent their constituents in Parliament as they think best.

How each chooses to do that is entirely up to them. Of course, they won’t last long if they don’t satisfy their voters. In a democracy, save for grave transgressions, only the voters should decide whether MPs are behaving appropriately.

If voters choose an MP like Claudia Webbe, recently convicted of criminal offences, they will soon repent, but that Sir Geoffrey Cox or David Lammy earn money outside Parliament is normal – desirable, even. Gregory Shenkman
London W8 SIR – MPs cannot win.

They are expected to make laws and run the country, and are not paid handsomely for this. They control a business far greater financially than any other, yet the paid rewards are minuscule. Can you imagine any chief executive or finance director working for what Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, is paid?

We need intelligent, personable, articulate, common-sense individuals to take the country forward. I’m afraid we either pay them significantly more or allow them to earn additional rewards outside of Parliament. Equally, no one should enter Parliament without having work experience and none should stay more than 10 years.

Lifetime politicians are a hindrance. Mike Metcalfe
Butleigh, Somerset

Smartphone slavery

SIR – I don’t have, need, or want a smartphone (Letters, November 10), but I worry it will be forced on us all before long. Does anyone else find it strange that an item, ownership of which is a personal choice and which is produced by private companies for profit, is used by the Government and other large corporations such as banks to carry out their business?

Mary Alexander
Tunbridge Wells, Kent SIR – Has the smartphone become a god? Tony Mould
Chester

A green Cop-out

SIR – While the great and the good have jetted to Glasgow to lecture us on saving the planet, I’m on the roof fitting replacement covers and air vents to my 25-year-old solar panels.

Of all the companies contacted to do this work only one gave me a quote – GBP5,000 to replace the entire system, and send perfectly good copper pipes, tank, pump and controls to land fill. It is extraordinary that, in this day and age, support and maintenance for this and household appliances does not exist. What is the point of consumers going green in a throwaway society?

David Ward
Gosport, Hampshire SIR – Each week, the noise of my neighbours’ gardener’s leaf blower makes me want to vacate my house. I recently discovered that a two-stroke petrol-powered blower emits more carbon monoxide, nitrogen and carcinogenic hydrocarbons than a Ford pick-up truck.

Up to a third of the fuel is spilled into the air, which means that half an hour of leaf blowing is equivalent to driving hundreds of miles, while the noise of 100 decibels is the same as a plane taking off. They are banned in many American cities, and in the whole state of California. It is time to ban them here.

Holly Holman
Boldre, Hampshire

Banking chequemate

SIR – I have just received a refund in the form of a cheque from my bank for excess charges. This is the same bank that asked why I wanted such a low-tech method of payment when I requested a replacement cheque book. It is also the bank that has closed all its local branches, so my nearest is now 20 miles away.

The printing on the cheque is so faint that I cannot pay it in using the bank’s app. Presumably, I am expected to give up and simply throw it away. That is not going to happen.

A P A Rutherford
Bishop’s Sutton, Hampshire

Poppy placement

SIR – The British Royal Legion says there is no correct side on which to wear a poppy (Letters, November 11), but that it should be worn with pride. Some say it should be worn over the heart, but the more prosaic reason for wearing it on the left is that most people are right-handed, and it is far easier to pin it on the left side. Linda Connor
Alderley Edge, Cheshire

The ‘lunatic line’ that shaped colonial East Africa

Val Kilmer and Om Puri discuss building the railway in The Ghost and the Darkness (1996)Credit: ALAMY

SIR – The recent furore over the role of the railways in the development of the British Empire, highlighted by Professor David Abulafia (Comment, November 9), has surprisingly not yet focused on the case of East Africa’s Uganda railway.

The line was built hurriedly to counter French expansionism in the 1890s, which threatened British control of the headwaters of the Nile. The workforce of about 32,000, which was largely imported from India, was plagued by disease, floods, man-eating lions and hostile tribesmen. Running from Mombasa to Lake Victoria, and known as the “iron snake” or the “lunatic line”, in view of its economic irrationality, it was completed in 1901.

To help defray interest charges on its enormous capital cost of GBP5.5 million, which lay on the balance sheet of what later became the Colony and Protectorate of Kenya until written off in 1940, good agricultural land along its route with the prospect of cheap and abundant African labour was offered by the local administration on favourable terms to settler farmers who came mainly from Britain and South Africa. For the next 60 years this arrangement provided British colonialism with one of its most florid chapters, and governments with enduring headaches. Dr Donald H M Fraser
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

Marylebone Cricket Club’s silence on racism

SIR – In his excellent piece (“ECB prostituted ‘spirit of cricket’ and is not fit to judge Yorkshire”, Sport, November 9), Simon Heffer makes several references to the “spirit of cricket”.

Marylebone Cricket Club is the guardian of the laws of cricket, and the “spirit of cricket” is enshrined in the laws. A report, “Building a Sustainable Future”, published on November 3 2021, claims that MCC puts its “experience and influence to good use through our maintenance of the Laws of Cricket”, and that it will “continue to be a leading light in the game”. It is disappointing, therefore, that MCC has made no comment on the current situation with regard to racism in cricket.

MCC members are also concerned that the club, in common with the England and Wales Cricket Board, is guilty of paying more attention to the cash register than to maintaining the spirit of cricket. Simon Heffer says that an eight-year-old would be better able to talk about the spirit of cricket than the ECB. I agree with him and look forward to a grown-up statement ?from MCC.

Such a statement might be evidence for the claim in the MCC report that “MCC has been at the forefront of innovation in cricket ?since 1787”.

Chris Waterman
MCC member
Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire

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