SIR – I was reading the letter by Professor Martin Marshall, the chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, regarding the role of GPs during the pandemic, until I reached his remark: “It has been business as usual in general practice throughout the pandemic.” I nearly fell off my chair.
Short of putting up a barbed-wire fence round our local GP surgery, they have done just about everything else to dissuade patients from contacting them.
I have been bombarded with SMS messages, telling me what they weren’t prepared to do, which for most of the time was just about everything.
“Stay away,” was the clear message coming out, even if the surgery was actually open at times.
How can supermarket employees on a minimum wage continue to serve us, face to face, throughout this crisis, yet handsomely rewarded GPs seemed to use every excuse to avoid it?
Lancing, West Sussex
SIR – In this small village, we have been excellently served by a team of dedicated GPs and nurses throughout the current pandemic. A phone call to the receptionist in the morning will always result in a call back from a GP for a phone triage.
Then, certainly in my case, this will be followed up with a face-to-face consultation if necessary. All precautions are taken.
I cannot thank one GP in particular enough for helping me through the last six months.
SIR – My experience is that it has most certainly not been business as usual. I suffer from debilitating arthritis in my thumbs. I have had steroid injections in the past, administered by my GP, which help significantly. But my GP surgery has told me I cannot have this done at the moment, and they have no idea when the treatment might be reinstated.
They gave no explanation except to say that the Royal College of General Practitioners had advised GPs not to. They made no offer of a video consultation, but suggested that I should “call back every couple of weeks or so to see whether anything has changed”. So much for “business as usual”.
How is it logical or desirable that I can visit the dentist, have my hair cut, go to the pub, sit next to someone on a plane and take my car for a service but not see my GP to have basic treatment?
Is anything being done to fix this scandalous situation that is condemning thousands of people to unnecessary misery?
King’s Lynn, Norfolk
SIR – Professor Marshall says that it has been “business as usual in general practice throughout the pandemic”. He clearly hasn’t tried to see his GP recently. What used to be difficult has become an impossibility.
Back to the high street
SIR – I was interested in the comments by Adam Marshall of the British Chamber of Commerce on the return to shopping in the high street after lockdown, broadcast on the Chopper’s Politics podcast last week.
As a cycle retailer, permitted to remain open throughout lockdown, I experienced one of the busiest periods in my 30-year career. With reduced staff and a strict one-out, one-in policy, we did well to cope with the huge increase in retail demand.
One lesson from those weeks is that customers waiting patiently for their turn in the store are essentially “pre-sold”: they have either bought something online and are collecting, or they know that what they want is in stock, making the whole process efficient.
Secondly, their ability to linger and browse is reduced – after all, there’s a queue outside. Browsing relies on staff time, space and display. These are obvious traits of a shop, but are they as important as previously thought?
With millions of shops on dwindling high streets, should the retail sector take the opportunity to change traditional ways of shopping?
It could sell to the customer online by click and collect, or through pre-booked sales appointments using FaceTime and Zoom. Then, a shop, with reduced overheads, becomes more like a depot.
SIR – Surely there is too much gloom about the demise of high street shopping. Many commentators (and even some retailers) seem convinced that the leap in popularity of internet shopping is the “new normal”.
But, have they fully taken account of the fact that when the crisis is over most people will no longer be at home all the time, and will be unable to receive deliveries?
It seems more likely that people will revert to shopping in the high street, where they can try on a suit or dress, instead of waiting for delivery, finding the item unsuitable and having to return it.
Where thanks are due
SIR – I would like to thank my husband (Letters, July 9). He is a key worker. He is a forklift truck driver for a large supermarket chain.
We both would like to thank his lucky stars he has a job.
TV licence or jail
SIR – I have checked the TV licence web page to find out who will go to jail for non-payment in a house of two over-75s, but I could not find the answer. Do my wife and I both go?
SIR – It will take the savings of 16 Rishi Sunak subsidised meals to cover the £157.50 for a TV licence. As an over-75, is it an obesity risk worth taking, or should I simply accept the 1.7 per cent reduction to my state pension?
SIR – I am always prepared to pay top dollar for any product whose quality matches the price. Unfortunately, the BBC’s current output doesn’t fit this criterion. The daily programmes are repeats and puerile game shows.
SIR – During lockdown, I paid for a Netflix subscription. I’ve just cancelled it; the content is mainly dross.
The BBC may have the most misguided senior management, but it can still make good programmes.
SIR – How did pensioners feel before 2000, when Gordon Brown introduced this perk as a bribe for the grey vote? They paid without complaint, I imagine.
I don’t mind paying £3.03 a week.
R you there?
SIR – I am concerned. Where is the R number? On holiday? Self-isolating? No longer with us? We need to know.
Dealing with unfair parking charges
SIR – I was sorry to read of Gordon Casely’s treatment by a private parking contractor (Letters, July 8).
Generally speaking, to enforce penalty charges, a private parking firm will need to obtain a court order. To achieve this, it would need to prove that the motorist has breached the contract which they are deemed to have entered into by parking on the land in question.
Although the terms of the contract should be clearly stated on signs close to the parking spot, it is not at all unusual for these to be ambiguous, confusing, absent or defaced – in which case, the contract is likely to be unenforceable.
Where a charge has been imposed because of a technicality, a court might take a dim view of an action brought by a parking company for whom no loss was involved. In any event, private parking companies do not usually want to incur the cost or trouble of court action.
Anyone in receipt of a private ticket should therefore carefully examine nearby parking signs and photograph any that might be damaged or illegible or otherwise contain discrepancies. Letters from the parking companies should be carefully read as they are often designed to appear intimidating but actually contain empty threats.
If in doubt, the motorist would be wise not to pay a private parking ticket or to waste their time with an industry appeals process that does not enjoy much public confidence.
If the quantity or nature of correspondence becomes a problem, a pre-emptive county court claim for damages for harassment often results in a satisfactory settlement.
The Armed Forces need things that go bang
SIR – I am relieved to learn that the impending Armed Forces review will be based upon the threat and not on numbers. Previous reports made it look as though any kinetic ability (i.e. things that go “bang”) would be sacrificed for the ability to combat cyber warfare.
If the latter eventuality were to arise, Trooping the Colour might have to be changed to take account of revised battle honours: Trooping the Computer Mouse might do it.
Colonel Philip Barry
SIR – Possible reduction of Army numbers to 60,000? Come off it, MoD.
Lt Col Charles Holden (retd)
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