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Privatised cancer care
Members of my cancer support group were recently offered a free trip to a cancer treatment centre in Newport, 50 miles away, to see the first proton beam treatment set-up in Wales. Basically a private hospital. But curious to see this latest treatment in action, a dozen of us put our names down.
On the day, to our surprise, rather than the minibus we'd expected, transport was in four large private hire taxis. On arrival we were ushered into a large, well-furnished lounge, welcomed by an affable management type and provided with coffee, biscuits and a goody bag with promotional pens etc. We were then taken on a tour.
We were shown a chemotherapy suite, and a radiotherapy unit, but not the proton beam system we'd come to see - it turns out it hasn't been installed yet! The nearest we got to it was a video of large chunks of machinery being imported from Germany, driven along the M4 and put into a half-completed building.
When it came down to it, we had been given a tour of an installation just like we have in our NHS hospital in Swansea! Granted, the waiting rooms were more luxurious, the coffee better and the equipment perhaps a bit newer, but currently this private unit has nothing we don't have through the NHS.
So what was the point of the trip, which must have cost something over £1,000?
A few publicity shots of cancer patients? Or to demonstrate that, in the words of their glossy brochure - they could "create a better future for cancer patients"? Their services are provided to "insured private patients, self-paying patients, and NHS patients" - in that order! So, rather than have its own treatment centres the NHS would pay private providers.
In other words, another example of creeping privatisation. I don't think any of us were convinced that comfy lounges and more spacious units would be any substitute for our bustling, sometimes overcrowded, sometimes a bit tatty round the edges, but free health service under our ownership and control.
Geoff Jones, Swansea
I enjoyed Caroline Vincent's review of 'The Death of Stalin' in issue 968, and I particularly liked the parallels she drew between Ianucci's lampooning of Blairites in 'The Thick Of It' and Stalinists in this film. Both sets of apparatchiks are bumbling clowns but whereas the Blairites wreck people's careers, the Stalinists destroy lives and families.
But I don't share her criticisms of the film.
The misogyny she refers to is entirely in the heads of the vulgar, sadistic, macho bureaucrats. In Ianucci's scenario it is the lead female character, the concert pianist Maria Yudina, who is the only genuine oppositionist, because Stalin has destroyed her family and she's not prepared to work for him or the other monsters, even if it costs her own life.
But Caroline's more important criticism is that the film "goes nowhere near clarifying the important role played by the old Bolsheviks under Lenin in freeing Russian workers and peasants from the tsarist regime". Are we really going to demand that of Ianucci? That's a tall order, and would, I suspect, be a case of setting him up to fail.
I do agree with Caroline that in everything to do with the centenary of 1917 the media seek to conflate Bolshevism and Stalinism. Even the recent acclaimed Radio 4 dramatisation of John Reed's 'Ten Days That Shook The World', which many Socialist Party members have enjoyed, couldn't forego a final sinister appearance from the future general secretary: "Just call me Stalin, everyone does". So I for one am glad Ianucci kept the focus of his black humour relentlessly on the Stalinists.
Paul Gerrard, Salford
The cuts carried out by the Tory government continue to make themselves felt. I know this from personal experience.
First, the Tory-controlled Cambridgeshire County Council closed down the Bowthorpe Mental Health Day Centre at the instructions of the government.
Second, I was taken off the books of my consultant psychiatrist at Agenoria House, the office of Wisbech community mental health team.
Third, my psychiatric nurse at North Brink Surgery left and hasn't been replaced.
Fourth, I failed my personal independence payment medical, meaning I can no longer afford to see a counsellor.
Fifth, my nurse practitioner at North Brink Surgery can no longer see me as she now only does home visits.
Perhaps I'll fail my employment and support allowance medical. Thankfully that won't take place until July 2019.
John Smithee, Wisbech, Cambs
So far this year Arriva has £3.3 billion in sales profit and £368 million in operating profit across Europe, this is nothing new for the transport company with their sales profit and operating profit in 2015 being £4.28 billion and £464 million respectively. Currently Arriva employs 16,000 bus drivers and mechanics who have a basic pay of £22,500 a year. The 3% pay rise that their employees are asking for wouldn't even reduce their profits by 1%, yet they are refusing to budge despite the fact that many of its employees are facing a real terms pay cut due to inflation rising to 3%.
With the profits that Arriva is making they could end the atrocious wages that they have their drivers and mechanics operating under and still make large profits.
For this reason I believe that the British government needs to renationalise the transport industry. Profits can then be better distributed and give the employees of the transport industry fair pay.
Joseph Ventre, Liverpool
At work recently neither of our managers were there, one had a day off and the other was off sick.
Guess what? The team functioned, we allocated who would perform which duties and organised lunch and rest breaks.
Who says workers can't run the workplace?
Clive Walder, Birmingham
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