Gazette letters: NHS, Covid costs, N Lee & Sons, public parks, free school meals and heart health

A banner in support of the NHS. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA.

A banner in support of the NHS. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA. - Credit: PA

Fundamental changes in our health and social care system are being planned in haste, without publicity or consultation, in breach of the NHS constitution, writes Marion Macalpine, Hackney Keep Our NHS Public.

London health bosses have ruled that current emergency measures will continue unless they agree to changes. Non-accountable new health bodies (called Integrated Care Systems) were instructed by London health bosses to come up with local plans in 12 days.

So if you want to see your GP you will have to continue to do this remotely; there will be a continued “shift away from hospital care” without other care out of hospital being put in place; “new integrated workforce and volunteer models” are to be introduced, ie not a fully professional, trained and properly paid workforce; the backlog in non-urgent operations is to be cleared only “over time”; and support services are to be “consolidated”, ie further job losses. On top of all this, the vast increase in contracts and payments to the private sector that has funded the government’s disastrous and belated attempts to deal with Covd-19 – for beds, testing, PPE etc – will continue.

Health bosses are using the crisis as a cover – as Naomi Klein noted in The Shock Doctrine – to make permanent changes that will seriously undermine our NHS while vastly increasing profiteering opportunities for the corporates.

Leaked treasury documents have revealed that the Tories plan to rake back what has been spent mitigating the effects of the coronavirus crisis by increasing income tax and raiding state pensions, writes Sasha Simic, Stoke Newington, full address supplied.

Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock, Rishi Sunak and the rest of the cabinet – who have made such a great display of clapping front-line public sector workers for their work during the Covid-19 pandemic every Thursday – also plan to impose a two year pay freeze on them, according to these leaked documents.

This is how the Tory hypocrites reward health workers who have risked their lives to save lives. The Tories have shown what they really think of the front-line workers they hypocritically clap every Thursday.

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Workers paid for the banker’s crash of 2008. Public sector workers including doctors, nurses and other health workers endured a seven-year pay cap from 2010 as part of the Tory government “austerity” policy.

The question the leaders of the Trade Union movement must now answer is are we going to fight austerity this time?

Boris Johnson had a difficult decision to make when he rightly eased the lockdown as the scientists do not agree on what the future holds, writes Christopher Sills, Dunsmure Road, Stamford Hill.

I believe that near normal life should resume not later than July 1 with the party conferences taking place in September/October as normal and the postponed elections that were meant to take place on May 7, 2020, taking place on the last Thursday in October.

Although it is unlikely that Covid-19 will be entirely beaten by then, in the absence of a vaccine it is likely to be reduced significantly. However, the long-term effects of the lockdown will continue to grow both in lost jobs and a growing number of premature deaths from other causes. The government has made the situation worse by cancelling bank dividends, which has the affect of making the recession worse than it otherwise would have been and will make recovery even longer.

Finally, the government should cancel HS2, as the economics no longer make sense in the post Covid-19 world. The longer this inevitable decision is delayed the greater the cost of abandoning it will be.

I’m currently researching N Lee & Sons of Shoreditch who were making top quality furniture from around 1900 until at least the late 1960s, writes Andrew Tavroges, Pure Imagination Ltd.

If any of your readers have any information about them or the family of Jack Lee it would be of great help, email me

Mark Camley, executive director, Parks and Venues, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park; Shaun Dawson, chief executive, Lee Valley Regional Park Authority; Tony Leach, chief executive, Parks for London; Andrew Scattergood, chief executive, The Royal Parks; Richard Parry, chief executive, Canal & River Trust and Colin Buttery, director, Open Spaces Department, City of London, write:

As those responsible for some of London’s key open spaces we are not surprised that during these difficult times our parks, green spaces, towpaths and riversides have become a vital part of our national response to coronavirus.

When for many years London’s world-beating open spaces have been taken for granted, it is the challenges of a pandemic which have made many people realise just how precious our open spaces are for the millions who live in the capital.

We wrote to Londoners at the start of April asking that you do everything you can to help us keep the spaces open. It has not been easy, but the vast majority of those going out and about have followed the rules and played their part – along with our dedicated staff – in making sure that there have been places where people can go out for their daily exercise.

Now we have reached a new phase and from today some elements of what you can do outside will change. However our message remains the same – please respect any regulations in place at the open spaces you visit – we can only keep our parks and green spaces open if you continue to help us.

Social distancing remains – keep two metres apart from people outside your household. Sitting outside is allowed – but again keeping your distance from those not in your household. It might be that on occasions those working hard to keep these spaces open will ask people to move on as areas are getting too crowded, please respect that and be kind in your response as they are only doing their job to keep open spaces safe. We ask you to support us so we don’t risk losing these opportunities.

Try to stay local if you can. If you do need to travel to enjoy open space then consider if it is absolutely necessary, it could put unmanageable pressure on our car parks and public transport if sensible choices are not made. Finally, at the places you visit look out for information on what facilities are open and closed and how they should be used, such as those that might allow limited sports activities.

It is not difficult to help us – it is a question of being alert and sensible, looking out for information, listening to advice and doing the usual responsible things such as taking your litter home and keeping your dog under control. Please also respect those living next to our open spaces and alongside our rivers and canals. Our teams are working hard because we know how important it is for everyone that the great outdoors is accessible to everyone in London – and we are proud to be part of that effort. For more information visit:

Many more children are going hungry in this coronavirus crisis, so this is absolutely not the time to be withdrawing support for free school meals, wrote Tulip Siddiq MP, Labour’s shadow minister for Children and Early Years, commenting on the news that the government will not fund free school meals in England over the half-term.

There have been huge admin problems with the free school meal voucher scheme which we have been urging ministers to sort out, but it is a terrible mistake to take this crucial support away at a critical moment.

The economic impact is hitting the poorest families hardest, with one in five households with children not getting the food they need in recent weeks. A free school meal is often the only proper meal that some children get, especially when household budgets are under pressure, so this support must continue.

The British Heart Foundation continues to support people with heart and circulatory disease during the coronavirus pandemic, writes Maureen Talbot, head of clinical support, British Heart Foundation.

Heart disease is one of the most common pre-existing health conditions in people who have died with Covid-19. Understanding what lockdown and the different risk levels mean for people with heart and circulatory disease has been one of the most common enquiries, and the lockdown changes announced last week in England have raised further questions.

We’ve extended our Helpline opening hours, added to its specialist nursing team and launched an appeal to help us continue providing this service. To contact the BHF’s Heart Helpline call 0300 330 3311 or email