Sir: I share Mary Dejevsky’s concern regarding the impact of tired, overworked nurses on the quality of patient care (‘Short shrift for long shifts’, 6 October). However, it is unwarranted to blame nurses for detrimental work cultures when the contributing factors are complex. Nurses generally do not have a choice about the length of shifts they work. Shift lengths must be determined by patient needs and safety, and 12-hour shifts can be an essential part of their job, but hours of unpaid overtime where they cannot deliver care effectively and safely leave nurses burnt out and demoralised.
The Royal College of Nursing’s research showed that nurses are dealing with increasing workloads, lack of support from managers and, crucially, the inability to deliver the kind of care they would like. Over 80 per cent of nurses surveyed said that they had gone to work despite feeling too ill to do so because of their commitment to patients and overworked colleagues. Without the correct staff-patient ratios, longer working hours will continue and patient outcomes will suffer, as cited by Robert Francis’s report and findings from Sir Bruce Keogh and Professor Don Berwick. The RCN wants to see nursing staff able to deliver high quality care to patients and supports the implementation of the Francis report’s recommendations to help make this happen.
Dr Peter Carter
Chief Executive and General Secretary,
Royal College of Nursing, London W1
Persecution in the UK
Sir: John L. Allen’s excellent article on the plight of Christians (‘The new persecution’, 5 October) highlights an ignored and important subject, but it one respect it overlooks something very worrying. He writes that ‘the truth is that in the West, a threat to religious freedom means someone night get sued; in many other parts of the world, it means someone might get shot, and surely the latter is the more dramatic scenario’. This is, of course, quite true. However, it disregards how the intolerance that leads to persecution works.
Thomas More identified three levels of persecution. The most basic level is the deprivation of property and other worldly goods; the second includes physical harassment, mainly through forced labour and the restriction of movement; and the final, most severe type of persecution is torture and a shameful and painful death. More wrote this in the Tower before suffering a martyr’s death; he should be heeded. It is not hard to see how Christians in this country, harassed for their beliefs and their practice of them, whether that is wishing to wear a cross or not to participate in same-sex marriage, have certainly reached More’s first level, and arguably his second level of persecution.
Persecution does not begin with torture, execution, murder and martyrdom; it ends there. It is a step-by-step approach and we in the so-called ‘free’ West should be extremely vigilant.
Sir: Peter Phillips asks whether London has too many concert halls (Arts, 5 October). Maybe; but how many of them are really fit for purpose? London needs to raise its game if we’re to remain at the forefront of the performing arts. Concert-goers will put up with a lot to hear great music, but audiences are becoming more demanding. When they hear what the rest of the world has to offer, they will want excellent acoustics, comfortable seats and good sight-lines in London too. Performers will want excellent performance support and back-of-house facilities. Students will want to be trained in an environment that enables them to develop their full potential. In providing all this at Milton Court, the Guildhall School has shown the way. That’s what great institutions do.
Professor Barry Ife
Principal of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London EC2
Sir: As Piers Paul Read points out (‘I believe in miracles’, 5 October), candidates for canonisation in the Catholic church have traditionally needed miracles ascribed to them before their souls can be declared to be in Heaven. Yet Pope John Paul II, whose forthcoming canonisation has been announced, has apparently already reached that destination. During his funeral mass his successor, now Pope Emeritus, envisaged him ‘standing … at the window of the Father’s house’, seeing and blessing those on earth. He had evidently bypassed Purgatory en route. As a parallel, anyone who attends ordinary Catholic funerals will know that celebrants often assume that the deceased is by now in Heaven. Purgatory is rarely alluded to these days, still less the possibility of Hell.
Chichester, West Sussex
Sir: Rod Liddle raises a wider issue (5 October), when he talks of the asymmetry between attitudes to criticism from left and right in this country. Many Tory voters, even those living in Tory constituencies, are reluctant to display election posters for their candidate, fearing broken windows, graffiti or worse. Are there any recorded instances of Labour posters similarly targeted by Tory supporters? I have never heard of any.
Market Bosworth, Leicestershire
Sir: Will Self boasting of an addiction to Harveys Bristol Cream is not as farfetched as Ian Thomson thinks (Arts, 5 October). When Iggy Pop recorded Raw Power in London in the early 1970s, his drug of choice was indeed Harveys Bristol Cream.
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