Dear Editor, Your readers may not be aware of the anger felt by local GPs over current Government attempts to bully them into yet another renegotiation of their contracts. Several of our family doctors have contacted me to express their concern that the Government, having completely miscalculated the effects of the 2004 GP contract, is now seeking to arbitrarily impose changes that will reduce patient choice with regard to GP opening hours.
The British Medical Association is opposed to the latest Government's proposals to impose a 'one size fits all' target for opening hours on all surgeries, regardless of local need. They point to a Department of Health survey that claims that 84 per cent of the public are satisfied with the opening hours of their surgery.
In a typical act of Government, the Government has told family doctors that either they agree to the latest diktat by mid March, or the Government will impose additional contract changes from April that are even worse.
The Conservative Party does not support the Government's approach. GPs are senior healthcare professionals who are well remunerated. Rather than penalise them, we should give GPs greater freedom and responsibility and reward them for their quality of services and the outcomes they achieve for their patients.
We do not want to micro-manage GPs by prescribing in detail their opening hours. The needs of patients vary. Access arrangements are not an 'out-come'. The Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) should aim to reward clinical quality, patient satisfaction and patient-reported outcomes, not dictate processes. We want GPs to take greater budgetary responsibility as commissioners of care for their patients.
Access and opening hours should be determined by GPs in response to their patients' local needs and choices. While areas with a high percentage of working families may have a need for later opening hours, areas with a high population of pensioners do not.
We will ensure there are no barriers to the opening of new surgeries, and would reward GPs who choose to deliver services in deprived areas. Patients should have greater scope to choose their GP and to exercise choice through their GP as budget-holder for their care.
Many GPs now genuinely believe that the Government is seeking to destroy our local NHS GP services in favour of privately run primary care and the (untested) so-called 'polyclinics'.
They have already decimated NHS dentistry. Don't let them do it to our family doctors.
Conservative Prospective Parliamentary
Candidate for North Warwickshire
A 'bog-standard' service
Dear Editor, An unfunny and irritating cartoon in the current Radio Times shows a man under a sign saying "Pointless items stall". He's offering three things: a solar-powered torch, a lead balloon and what's described as a "bog-standard telly". My dictionary says that bog-standard is informal and derogatory. I don't know why Radio Times wants to sneer at those who don't own expensive television sets. And what about those who live in areas with only a basic "bog-standard" broadcasting service?
It apparently suits Radio Times, and the broadcasting organisations and MPs to forget all the people who pay a full licence fee yet have free access to only a fraction of what others, in other parts of the UK, can see.
We don't receive Channel Five. We don't receive Freeview. And some of us, far from receiving high-definition broadcasting, have erratic reception which sometimes gives us low-definition broadcasting.
Looking at the digital television listings in the Radio Times, I rarely notice programmes I'd be even mildly interested in watching, but it does seem wrong that we and many others should keep on paying for other areas to have the extras that we don't get.
I suspect that the areas without Channel Five and Freeview also tend to be cultural deserts: the areas with the least access to publicly funded arts at the best professional level and the least access to good radio libraries.
We should pay half for Radio Times, since so much of what's in it isn't applicable.
We should be eligible for significant licence fee refunds, for all the years of paying for far more broadcasting than we receive. And our licence fee should be set at a lower level.
Education for donors and loved ones
----TEXT: Dear Editor, It was reassuring to read the local My Life, My Gift promotional campaign for more organ donors (Post, February 4).
Those of us who've carried a donor card since their incepetion and on the register, know only too well that a great percentage of West Midlands residents back donor schemes but never quite get round to the current 'opt-in' system.
Whatever the merits of the current 'deemed consent' versus 'opt in' there is an ongoing need for greater discussion, understanding and education amongst donors and loved ones should potential transplants arise.
The moving speech from Baroness Jenny Tonge, she a GP and mother of a child electrocuted, reminded me that even when all concerned favour organ donation there could be vital moments when the gift of life is overlooked or lost.
EU neighbours with opt-in systems, such as the Netherlands and Ireland, or those with deemed consent, such as Spain, share good practice by encour-aging informed discussions amongst partners and communities - often more worthwhile than individuals registering as in the UK.
On track to save £14 million
Dear Editor, It was disappointing to read your recent report on Birmingham City Council's business transformation programme ( 'To save £66m, council spends £82m', Post, February 15).
The situation is rather different from that described.
The report confuses Birmingham City Council's overall efficiency drive with its business transformation programme; overall these programmes have saved cumulatively £190 million over the last four years.
These savings have allowed low council tax increases and additional resources to be provided to frontline services over this period. This approach will continue in the next budget year.
Far from running at a loss, Birmingham City Council's business transformation programme is on track and will achieve a net saving of £14 million over this year and next. The value of these savings will increase in the years ahead as the benefits of the 'invest to save' policy are realised, and in total the programme will achieve net savings of £565 million over 10 years.
This clearly shows how the city is already benefiting financially from the council's determination to use money efficiently.
It is also worth pointing out that the transformation programme is led by the council itself, not by Capita, while some aspects of the programme are supported by Service Birmingham, a joint venture between the council and Capita.
Assistant to the Chief Executive on Transformation,
Birmingham City Council
Monstrosity with no windows
Dear Editor, Brian Gambles is quite right, Selfridges is "just another shop" and the biggest embarrassment in the history of our lovely city (Selfridges is not iconic - it's just another shop, Post February 16).
This claustrophobic monstrosity has no windows and is smothered in saucepan lids. I am ashamed to show it to out-of-town friends.
A friend from Stafford said it appears to be made of metal and plastic. She is right; no signs of stone or brick.
The architect of Selfridges was a brilliant conman. Perhaps it should be renamed the ENC (the Emperor's New Clothes). Only a genius can appreciate its quality.
Citizens and not mere shoppers
Dear Editor, Brian Gambles is absolutely right to suggest that a new library would be a more welcoming and fitting piece of architecture for readers and writers to stay a while, relax, learn and live, be citizens and not mere shoppers at the Bullring or exhausted drivers crawling through spaghetti junction (Selfridges is not iconic - it's just another shop, Post February 16).
Long may he speak up and prosper.