Socialist Worker

LETTERS: NHS boss is snatching food from the poor and sick

Issue No. 2548

NHS boss Simon Stevens wants to deprive benefit claimants with coeliac disease of the specialist foods they need

NHS boss Simon Stevens wants to deprive benefit claimants with coeliac disease of the specialist foods they need (Pic: Flickr/Random Retail, World Economic Forum)


The decision to remove gluten free products from prescription will once again hit thousands of poor people in the wallet and their health.

A strict gluten free diet is currently the only way for sufferers of coeliacs disease, such as myself, to be treated. Such diets are much more expensive than “normal diets” as they involve specialist ingredients that are not made from wheat.

Coeliac disease is a long term health condition.

If left untreated, it can lead to serious health complications, such as osteoporosis, fertility problems and in rare cases, small bowel cancer.

Currently people who are on benefits can receive certain foods on prescription, which can help with the increase in costs of being on a gluten free diet.

For instance, on a weight for weight basis, a gluten free loaf of bread can be seven times more expensive than the standard alternative.

In an interview with the Daily Mail newspaper Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England said that £22 million was being spent on food that was readily available in Morrisons, Lidl or Tesco.

But diets like this are not trendy fads, they are a necessity for around 1 percent of the population.

Those who cannot afford them risk losing their prescription foods and will suffer immediate ill health and increased risks of fatal diseases.

The Tories know that these cuts to the NHS will hit the poorest—but the savings are minimal.

The total annual bill for gluten free food to the NHS is £22 million, which might be compared to the £17 million cost of a single Trident nuclear missile.

The NHS is in crisis as a result of government policies.

It won’t be fixed by taking away treatments from the vulnerable, but by reversing the cuts and privatisation.

Martin Empson, Manchester


Anti-racists can’t afford to dismiss Leave voters

We campaigned last week with petitions to defend European Union (EU) migrants’ rights.

An older worker hesitated before signing the petition. Then he said, “listen, son” and told me that he had voted to Leave but that he wanted to keep free movement.

He said that he hated racism and didn’t want anyone to be deported.

He said that we had got the NHS and the welfare state as well as a faster growing economy when we weren’t part of the Common Market that later became the EU.

I think he hesitated because he assumed he was in for another lecture about how stupid he was for voting Leave.

He was pleasantly surprised when I said I was for leaving and that the anti-racist movement shouldn’t oppose it.

There’s a widespread argument that says the anti-racist movement needs to be pro-EU.

I think it’s divisive and it silences many working class people who voted Leave. It smacks of a middle class patronising tone towards working class grievances.

However people voted in the referendum they can unite now against racism.

Tim Knight-Hughes, Norwich


Toxic Trump will mean more deadly emissions

Donald Trump is a real threat to the planet.

He is already undoing Barack Obama’s limited reforms. Last week he scrapped the Clean Power Plan to replace coal power plants with renewables. He has approved the Keystone XL pipeline, overturning a decision to cancel it made after years of campaigning.

Trump has appointed climate sceptics such as Scott Pruitt to the cabinet. His secretary of state is former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson. His election gives confidence to all those who want to put profit before the planet—including Theresa May.

Her government is pressing ahead with fracking and airport expansion and cutting subsidies for renewables.

The Campaign against Climate Change has called a protest in central London on Saturday 29 April, in solidarity with the People’s Climate March in the US.

Camilla Royle, East London


Pick a side over Welsh language

An important principle is at stake for socialists in the debate about Welsh language provision in schools (Letters, 1 March, 15 March and 21 March).

Do we side with the politicians who prey on fear while making cuts, such as Powys council which recently closed secondary Welsh provision in Brecon?

Or do we oppose all cuts and insist on a child’s right to a fully resourced local school which teaches in the language appropriate to their needs?

The cuts being passed on by the Welsh government will mean more of these divisive battles to come.

The only model that leads to full bilingualism is where Welsh is the primary medium of teaching. A “dual stream” model is a failure, which is why it’s being phased out.

Richard Morse, Cwmbran


Stop the council housing wreckers

I read with interest your article on the One Housing tenants campaigning in London (background check, 29 March).

Opposition to redevelopment of council schemes or estates is important in order to stop attacks on council housing, social cleansing of the poor and land grabs.

We must also challenge the hated council tax—a state penalty on the poor—and the privatisation policies of the Tories.

Ayesha Saleem, Edinburgh


State of the union branch

I received a letter from my Unite Community union branch last week, saying it had decided to back incumbent Len McCluskey in Unite’s general secretary election.

I was amazed. This was the first time in three years I have been told of the branch’s existence. I had no notification of the meeting to discuss what candidate to back and the letter had no local contact details.

Maybe it was a meeting in a smoke filled room behind a closed door? I will never know.

John Curtis, Ipswich


You’re wrong about Syria

Your misleading article on Syria (Socialist Worker, 29 March) ignores the Kurdish and Arab offensive against Isis. It misunderstands the propaganda of the Turkish-sponsored Syrian National Coalition (SNC).

The SNC is upset because the Syrian Democratic Forces rightly sidelined it in the Raqqa operation.

I’m surprised Socialist Worker is regurgitating Turkish misinformation.

@Hevallo, on Twitter


Contempt of councillors

Your report on the Durham teaching assistants’ rally (Socialist Worker online) says that a Labour councillor left shouting, “Who else are you going to vote for?”

That sums up the attitude of Blairites. Then they wonder why we voted for Jeremy Corbyn!

@kernow4corbyn, on Twitter


This society breeds terror

After the horrific Westminster attack, we must confront the issues that fuel terrorism.

Our government must end its wars that create instability in the Middle East. Politicians are cold and remote. We are being let down, not represented.

This random act of terror crystallises the sick nature of society. It is important we unite to stop a racist backlash.

Pauline Wheat-Bowen, by email


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