Sir: Susan Hill’s article (‘Patient, heal thyself’, 29 June) dealt only with the unnecessary visits to GPs for minor ailments. In Wales we have an extra incentive to waste GPs’ time — all prescriptions are free. There are many people who are prepared to make a GP appointment just to get routine medicines for free, and GPs are powerless to resist.
Sir: Susan Hill’s article revived pleasant memories of my stint as a locum general practitioner in the early 1970s in Goring-by-Sea. As the registered patient number of the solo practice was the maximum allowable by the NHS at the time, I was puzzled to find that my workload ranged from half to one hour daily. The local pharmacist eventually explained that the prior principal had been a long-time cardiac invalid: local folk were reluctant to trouble the poor doctor and had got into the habit of going straight to Worthing Hospital Casualty. I spent most of my day absorbing local culture by having extended pub lunches and playing shove-ha’penny with the kids on Brighton pier. As 60 quid went into my bank account weekly, I readily admitted that socialised medicine was of great benefit to some.
Dr John Baffsky
Better than Oxbridge
Sir: Charles Moore criticises the motivations of the 21 students out of the 64 who attended our Sutton Trust summer school programme who accepted places at leading US universities (The Spectator’s Notes, 29 June). This choice meant that nine of these students did not take up offers from Oxford and Cambridge.
The fact that the US universities will pay virtually all the fees and living expenses of the students, together with the breadth and depth of study on offer, were key factors in their decisions. That more than 250 universities in the US have total funds of £400 million a year for undergraduates from outside their own country who can’t afford the fees is to their credit. It does not happen here.
Sir Peter Lampl
Chairman, The Sutton Trust
Sir: Charles Moore mistakenly blames the arrogance of brilliant state school pupils when considering their rejection of Oxbridge. These pupils may be arrogant, but so are Oxford and Cambridge. Oxford and Cambridge treat their offers as contracts; I know this from Oxford’s great surprise on receiving my rejection of their offer for undergraduate study. While Oxbridge does well in international competition for postgraduates, it has not responded well to increasing competition from top US institutions for undergraduates.
The greater flexibility of US undergraduate programmes was clearly an important factor, with one of the students citing Yale ‘allowing the students to explore what they wanted to do’ as leading him to reject Oxford. When top US institutions are offering a more flexible programme with greater academic support for a lower price, why shouldn’t Britain’s top students choose them over Oxbridge?
Lincoln College, Oxford
We love our skaters
Sir: Toby Young inspired many when he founded the West London Free School, fighting unfairness and misunderstanding along the way. So it is disappointing that he didn’t check his facts on Southbank Centre’s reason to move its skaters 120 metres upriver (Status anxiety, 22 June) to a spot they used up until ten years ago.
Rather than acting for commercial gain, Southbank Centre is trying to fund a massive expansion of educational services in our area. We already work with many London schools to provide free access to cultural education. This is an important instrument of social mobility in one of the most deprived boroughs in the UK.
We love our skaters and want them to stay on site. But what it comes down to is the greatest good of the greatest number. Several hundred skaters use the space each week. Their preference for a particular heritage space needs to be balanced against the hundreds of thousands of children who stand to benefit from the skaters’ move to a different heritage skate spot nearby.
Toby is, of course, welcome to speak to me. We need a public figure who understands the importance of both skateboarding and education, and who better than him?
Artistic Director, Southbank Centre
Sir: Thanks to Mark Palmer (‘Definitely maybe’, 29 June) for expressing what I, and no doubt many others, have felt for some time. About to enter my 70th year, I find I am less and less sure about anything. But far from worrying about this, it doesn’t bother me at all. Life is much more contentful when one no longer has to have an opinion on matters that one knows little or nothing about. And I don’t expect to be asked on Any Questions? any time soon.
Steyning, West Sussex
Gove’s other revolution
Sir: Toby Young’s interesting take on Michael Gove as a lefty revolutionary (‘Why Michael Gove is the best leader Labour never had,’ 21 June) omits one important similarity. Like many radicals, Gove has impeccably hawkish credentials on foreign policy. His book on the Islamist threat, Celsius 7/7, reads like a sort of manual for permanent democratic revolution.
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