I THOUGHT the BBC series The Thick of It had overstated, for comic effect, the level of vitriol used in inter-personal dialogue at the top level of Government. After listening to Dominic Cummings' interrogation at the Covid inquiry I find that it was spot on ("Former aide Cummings condemns lack of preparedness to deal with the pandemic", The Herald, November 1). It is really depressing that that such inflammatory language is employed by people in the business of running the country.

It tended to divert attention from what was being said in the conversations examined. But one contribution from Mr Cummings did strike a chord with me. He said that he had questioned why Covid cases were not isolated from general hospitals and treated elsewhere. He was told that care homes and the Nightingale pop-ups dealt with the situation adequately. We all know by now what happened in the care homes and it is my understanding that the Louisa Jordan facility, which was Scotland's equivalent of the Nightingales, was not actually used for clinical care of Covid patients but operated as a training hub and for other non-Covid-related activities.

There used to be infectious disease units remote from general hospitals. TB was isolated in them amongst other conditions and I have long felt that their closure was short-sighted. There have been many warnings of impending pandemics. In October 2016 the Cygnus report, set up to examine the effect on the country of a pandemic caused by a flu-type virus, said that it was a matter of when, not if, such an event would take place. I am not aware of the Cygnus study being referenced in the Covid-19 Inquiry so far but it made several recommendations, including for example rectifying the inadequate provision of medical ventilators and personal protection equipment (sound familiar?), which just might have made the pandemic, which did indeed happen, more manageable. But it was suppressed by the Government until 2020 when it was, reluctantly, partially published. It seems to have been put to one side perhaps because of the result of a certain referendum on European membership, which took place just four months before the Cygnus study. Implementing a hard exit from Europe just might have taken precedence over adequate planning for an inevitable pandemic which, after all, would only result in the deaths of a few old folk like me.

The warnings are still there. The viruses are not done with us. Would it not be common sense now to reconsider the recent obsession with centralised super-hospitals and recognise that encouraging infectious diseases into general medical facilities doesn't seem like the most sensible direction of travel? The Nightingales and Louisa Jordans have gone. Bring them back permanently as part of planning to combat future outbreaks.

Jim Proctor, Paisley.

A&E doctors are working too long

JANE Lax (Letters, November 1) bemoans the numbers of patients (and accompanying persons) spending longer than 24 hours in A&E departments. It is a very sad statistic and not the only deficit that the NHS in Scotland is wrestling with.

Lunching with a junior doctor friend yesterday, he currently working in a local A&E department, we chatted about his experience. I was disappointed, but perhaps not surprised, that his working week of shifts totals 56 hours. This is the same pattern and total hours that I worked at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary as a locum A&E registrar in 1982.

Strenuous long shifts in a department with stressed and ill patients waiting long hours is challenging enough. Why 56 hours and not 40?

The answer is simple, I suspect. We don't have enough doctors anywhere in the NHS and so a working week is well in excess of the previously relevant European Working Times Directive. There is no case that such Specialist Registrars need extra hours' experience for future needs. Many are in A&E departments as part of specialist training for general practice.

Philip Gaskell, Drymen.

Read more: We need to talk about the needless prolonging of life

Will graduates remain here?

TAKING a glance at the University of Strathclyde graduations recently as documented in The Herald (October 30), there are many diverse courses and some faculties have subjects which are relatively new degrees like artificial intelligence and applications. It did seem glancing at the diversity of names over the whole page that many of these graduating may be what we term new Scots. It made me wonder if, as there is only one Scottish name which appears in the advanced pharmacology section, for instance, whether many of these graduates if from abroad will, in fact remain in Scotland to practise their subject, or whether it means that Scotland will have only been represented by one pharmacy graduate who may not even remain in this country to practise.

I realise that universities do receive a lot of income from those who travel here from abroad to study, and so it is good for the stability of the universities, but I wonder how many of those graduating remain in this country to use their skills to benefit their host country. Or do many Scottish students study in other countries and return here to practise?

Irene Munro, Conon Bridge.

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Torture on the telephone

I DO my best to lead a calm life. For the most part I succeed, however, any time I have to phone any organisation, it is utter torture.

Today’s offender was the SPPA, but it could have been anyone. From the exhaustive and exhausting list of options, I chose one in the vicinity of my query.

A "voice" informed me that I was in a queue and I was told my call would be answered as soon as possible. This was followed by some mind-numbing electronic music. I then heard the following message: “Thanks for continuing to hold. We apologise for the delay. A member of staff will answer your call as soon as possible. You are currently number 2 in the queue. We expect to answer your call in approximately 1 minute”.

Then the "music" restarted. Talk about deja vu, this was repeated on 15 occasions. Yes, I counted, I had to do something to pass the time.

At last! A different message. The final two sentences were different. “You are currently number 1 in the queue”. Hooray! “We expect to answer your call in approximately 21 minutes”. Boo!

I abandoned the project. Fortunately I have a dental appointment this afternoon. It will be infinitely more pleasurable.

I’ll try again tomorrow, first thing. Can’t wait.

Brian J Logan, Glasgow.