Readers' letters - January 15

Allow customers to use empty cardboard boxes

Friday, 19th January 2018, 1:28 pm
Updated Friday, 19th January 2018, 2:30 pm
A correspondent asks for supermarkets to supply cardboard boxes to customers

For more letters:

Am I being unduly cynical at the support from retailers for compulsory plastic bag charging?

Apart from the few companies who claim to donate this income to charity, the rest will be laughing their way to the bank!

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More to the point would be to allow customers to use the empty cardboard boxes in which products have been delivered to the shop. My local supermarket used to have piles of these freely available at the checkout and plastic bag use was minimal as a result.

Nowadays, these have to be disposed of by retailers at vast cost – surely far better for them to be taken home and disposed of by customers as domestic waste at no cost to traders?

John Hein

via email

Ignorance about antibiotics

I was interested to read Paul Andrews’ letter (WP Letters, January 10) regarding his possible solution to the NHS crisis.

An antibiotic is a chemical used against mainly bacterial infections, for example, streptomycin being used against streptococcal infections.

The causative agent of flu is, however, a virus for which there are no antibiotics which will work effectively.

Thus there is absolutely no reason for a doctor to prescribe an antibiotic (used primarily to treat a bacterial infection) to ‘treat’ a “cough caused by flu at an early stage” (to quote Mr Andrews), as it will simply not work.

Its only use would be as a placebo and this would be a costly one to prescribe. The only time that an antibiotic would be prescribed in this case would be if the patient, now having a lowered immunity due to the effects of the flu virus, now develops bacterial infections such as pneumococcus, causing pneumonia, which then CAN be treated using an antibiotic such as amoxicillin or ampicillin.

This is what the recent NHS campaign, promoted

on television, has been all about.

The idea that the policy of withholding the prescribing of (useless) antibiotics at an early stage to prevent the increase in super bugs is counter-productive, is, at best, ludicrous and, at worst, a dangerous philosophy to follow.

Super bugs are those that gain acquired immunity from antibiotics by being subject to them.

These bugs do what Darwin taught us all many years ago: the survival of the fittest.

This means that, in the case of super bugs, while some may be killed by the antibiotic, others will survive and it is these that, over time, not only increase in numbers but also become increasingly resistant to the antibiotic which is thrown at them.

Take the bug MRSA.

This particular staphylococcus aureus bacterium is now noted for its resistance to many antibiotics and can thus become a killer as our bodies’ defences have not done their ‘survival of the fittest’ bit in being able to produce antibodies to naturally kill this bug.

The bug is free to reproduce with little to attack it until the numbers are such that it produces an infection and, in sufficient quantities, it can then kill


To my mind, A&E departments get overloaded simply because patients cannot get appointments with their GPs because people, as soon as they get a sniffle or a mild cough, clog up the surgery waiting rooms demanding to be prescribed useless antibiotics and indeed waste doctors’ time by them having to justify why their patient cannot be given an antibiotic.

Personally I would not mind, er, coughing up some extra National Insurance (NI) to aid the NHS if finance is a problem, but I wouldn’t wish to have my hard-earned cash wasted on patients who have a limited grasp on germs which were taught at school.

A Member of Staff Aureus