I USUALLY avoid the columns by Michael Fry in consideration of my blood pressure. Unfortunately I strayed into his column on Tuesday and now find myself compelled to respond (We must consider these key concerns as we emerge from coronavirus crisis, Sep 14).

While praising Nicola Sturgeon’s handling of the Covid crisis, he bemoans Scotland’s infection and death rates being higher than comparable countries, even England. This demands some correction.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Scotland’s total death rate has been 1,512 per million population, while England’s has been 2,222. Expressed another way, if our death rate had matched England’s, Scotland would have suffered more than 3,500 additional deaths.

READ MORE: Michael Fry: We must consider these key concerns as we emerge from Covid crisis

Our recent infection rate, however, does give serious cause for concern. For around three weeks now, Scotland’s infection rate has been close to double that of England. One possible explanation could be the difference in school holiday return dates. That remains to be seen. However, infection rates for both Scotland and England have been unacceptably high since July, with the Delta (formerly Indian) variant predominant. That is largely due to Boris Johnson closing travel to/from the Indian sub-continent three weeks after he received advice to do so.

Yes, the NHS is in danger of being overwhelmed this winter by a perfect storm of Covid, flu and delayed treatment for other conditions. However, privatisation as advocated by Mr Fry would be entirely the wrong solution to progressive under-funding by the UK Government for decades.

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Like Mr Fry, I have direct experience of US healthcare. Despite having excellent insurance cover from my employer, I found US healthcare to be fragmented – no centralised filing, with potential for conflicting treatments – and expensive, with a confusing mix of deductible charges and co-payments. US healthcare is the most expensive but least efficient on the planet, designed to benefit not its citizens, but Big Pharma and Big Insurance.

Progressively underfunding the NHS to breaking point then claiming privatisation to be the only solution is exactly the Tory game plan. It may be that the pandemic not only covers up the worst horrors of Brexit, but could also afford the Tories the perfect excuse to continue their privatisation of the NHS. The Scottish Government will of course resist this, but only independence will protect us from progressive erosion of our budget, not to mention our government’s powers.

Dr Ron Dickinson

HAVING for the umpteenth time read about the Covid-19 death rate in Scotland being proportionately higher than in England, I decided to check.

The fatality rates for Scotland are currently: 8263 who died within 28 days of the first positive test; 10595 whose death certificate mentioned Covid-19.

Assuming the population of Scotland to be 5.6 million, this is 147 per 100,000 who died within 28 days of the first positive test, and 189 per 100,000 whose death certificate mentioned Covid-19.

The fatality rates for England are currently: 117,955 who died within 28 days of the first positive test, and 134,751 whose death certificate mentioned Covid-19.

Assuming the population of England to be 56.2 million, this is 209 per 100,000 who died within 28 days of the first positive test, and 239 per 100,000 whose death certificate mentioned Covid-19.

READ MORE: Scotland records 30 Covid deaths and almost 5000 new cases

So going by these figures, England has fatality rates which are respectively 42% and 26% higher than the Scottish figures.

Michael Fry stated that “rates of infection and mortality have exceeded those not just in cack-handed England but also...” I have heard other commentators also claiming the same thing. Going by the figures above this is clearly not the case if you look at the total deaths from the beginning of the pandemic.

Using figures from the last month or so gives a false picture because of, for example, the different school holidays in the two countries.

Of course Covid-19 is not some sort of game and one should not use these figures to score political points, but this seems to be exactly what is happening. In which case we should try at least to stick to the facts.

It is especially sad when an independence-supporting paper like The National publishes such false statements.

David Allan

I READ Michael Fry’s column with interest. However, he didn’t mention the strain Brexit is putting on our health service. By and large it is not being properly reported. Friends tell me that every shift at a major hospital is down by six nurses, putting everyone under strain. Many EU nurses who have left were terrifically experienced and competent. It’s a similar story in many care homes. According to reports at the weekend, capacity is falling and waiting lists are growing in the sector. In turn, that will affect hospitals. Unfortunately things may get worse before they get better, but let’s recognise the problems Brexit is causing.

Jackie Kemp
via email