Letters to the press


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The Times, 8th August, 2012

I started writing letters to the press a few years ago, an activity borne out of frustration with some of the things I was reading. Here then, are a selection of missives from “Opinionated of East London.”

FT, 28th April 2020 (my birthday!)
Ventilator challenge has homemade solutions
The well documented problems of the Ventilator Challenge are compelling in their apparent pointlessness, along with the apparently unnecessary funds spent by Mr Dyson on the design of a new ventilator system that he claims is no longer needed.

Why was the making of existing, proven technology not licensed to appropriate British manufacturers for the production of machines that are known to work? With licenses containing protection for the rightful owners of patents and know-how, things could have happened with greater alacrity and less unnecessary cost, on our own doorstep. Unless I’m missing something, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Yours faithfully.
 
Giovanna Forte
London,UK

The well documented problems of the ventilator challenge are compelling in their apparent pointlessness, along with the apparently unnecessary funds spent by Mr Dyson on the design of a new ventilator system that he claims is no longer needed (Report, April 25). Why was the making of existing, proven technology not licensed to appropriate British manufacturers for the production of machines that are known to work? With licenses containing protection for the rightful owners of patents and knowhow, things could have happened with greater alacrity and less unnecessary cost on our own doorstep. Unless I’m missing something, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Giovanna Forte London, UK

FT, 9th May 2019
(this letter elicited quite a response – click above)
I was interested and not a little irritated to read your article on female barristers leaving the profession to improve life-work balance (“ ‘Punishing’ hours force female barristers to quit mid-career”, May 4). Yet again, the concept of a clever woman tailoring her career to allow her to bring up her children is given a less than sparkling finish.

If we want the next and future generations to be not just functional but kind, clever, engaging and more, then why not encourage their own parents (mother or father) to bring them up? Having and raising children is one of life’s huge privileges; it is the chance to really influence the future in all ways. Instead of providing benefits to cover childminders and nurseries, why not reward parents for looking after their own children, for at least the most formative months and years? What is more important after all: the business of work . . . or crafting the next generation?

Had I had the choice nearly 30 years ago, I would have been a stay-at-home mum. Alas it didn’t work out, so I set up my own business to avoid being at the behest of any less than sympathetic employer (and have not worked for anyone else since). Not a practical solution for everyone, but if female (or male) barristers find it so, they have my full support. As the saying goes: we have one life, so live it well.
Giovanna Forte
London E9, UK

I refer to your article on female barristers leaving the profession to improve life-work balance (“ ‘Punishing’ hours force female barristers to quit mid-career”, May 4). Yet again, the concept of a clever woman tailoring her career to allow her to bring up her children is given a less than sparkling finish. If we want the next and future generations to be not just functional but kind, clever, engaging and more, then why not encourage their own parents (mother or father) to bring them up? Having and raising children is one of life’s huge privileges; it is the chance to really influence the future in all ways. Instead of providing benefits to cover childminders and nurseries, why not reward parents for looking after their own children, for at least the most formative months and years? What is more important after all: the business of work . . . or crafting the next generation? Had I had the choice nearly 30 years ago, I would have been a stay-at-home mum. Alas it didn’t work out, so I set up my own business to avoid being at the behest of any less than sympathetic employer (and have not worked for anyone else since). Not a practical solution for everyone, but if female (or male) barristers find it so, they have my full support. As the saying goes: we have one life, so live it well.
Giovanna Forte
London E9, UK

The Guardian, 5th October 2019
How frustrating to read this article, with contributions from medics who have failed to highlight the need for accurate midstream urine collection. Every guideline in the world specifies midstream as the most reliable sample for accurate analysis, diagnosis and treatment of UTI. Yet the matter is persistently overlooked because changing this means changing hearts, minds, attitudes and the relevant patient pathway. What a faff for established systems. My company has data from an FOI request to all NHStrusts in 2016; this revealed national urine contamination rates that varied from below 1% to over 70%, with an average 23.5%; that’s over 16m patients a year who will not be properly diagnosed and treated from their urine sample. If this lack of accuracy was endemic in blood analysis there would rightly be a national outcry. Urine, as a waste product, is not given the same respect, despite being a window to our health.

Thanks to a now retired NHS GP, there is a way to get this right: in 2001 Dr Vincent Forte invented an NHS award-winning midstream urine device that now costs the NHS less than 90p; growing evidence confirms that his invention reduces contamination to 1.5% and false positives by up to 70%. These benefits lead to reduced unnecessary prescribing because patients can be treated with targeted antibiotics for the appropriate duration, not the broad spectrum variety believed to encourage antimicrobial resistance (AMR). What does this mean? It means properly treated conditions, healthy patients and huge savings on retests, repeat appointments and more for the NHS itself.

Women must not feel that reduced prescribing due to AMR is preventing their treatment, but understand that until the medical profession gets the basics right, treatment itself will remain unreliable. Fifteen years after Dr Forte invented the British-made Peezy Midstream, after much development, trials and investment it is now being used in some NHS antenatal clinics. But much like the variation in contamination data mentioned above, until it is adopted for all urine collection, successful urine screening will remain a national lottery.

Meanwhile, the only beneficiaries of failed UTI treatment are the pharmaceutical industry and the labs that are compensated (by the NHS) per sample; right-first-time, prompt, targeted treatment is of no interest to either party. Unfortunately their voices are louder than those of patients in pain.
Giovanna Forte
CEO, Forte Medical

The Guardian, 20th April 2016
The revelations (Watchdog steps in after allegations Boots is milking NHS, 18 April) following the Guardian investigation into Boots are symptomatic of the dynamic between the NHS and private business, some of which could arguably be regarded as exploitation. In our case we have identified a conflict of interest around the private laboratories appointed to manage NHS microbiology contracts and the latter’s urgent need to make significant cost savings in all areas of clinical medicine and patient experience.

On approaching one of the largest of these private laboratory groups to promote improved urine specimen collection and dramatically reduce retesting, we were told that this “would knock about £500,000 off our bottom line”. Our entreaty that right-first-time analysis, diagnosis and treatment would benefit patients as well as the NHS on a number of levels was dismissed in favour of shareholder interests.

Those in the NHS responsible for setting up volume-based compensation to private companies have singularly failed to protect their employer from what could arguably be viewed as exploitation. There are some NHS laboratories whose budgets also rely on the volume processing of specimens, without any reward or incentive for reduction in retesting.

This is a more serious issue than many will acknowledge given there are around 65m urine tests delivered to the NHS annually. Our own FOI research points to a national average potential retest rate of about 20% with some trusts showing 50% and in one case over 70%. That’s an awful lot of patients who cannot be accurately diagnosed at first test, which might also suggest a reason behind the wide prescribing of broad-spectrum antibiotics.
Giovanna Forte
Founding director, Forte Medical, London

Daily Telegraph, 19th February 2012
SIR –  I’m slightly baffled by the lure of supermarkets, and I wonder at the packed car parks that lie on the fringes of every settlement in Britain.

I admit that it is convenient for Ocado to deliver the boring, bulky stuff, but independent shops offer better shopping. They are also easier on the pocket: though their prices may not compete with supermarkets’, one doesn’t over-buy; you simply get what you went in for. Since abandoning the retail behemoths for my local shops, end-of-week, out-of-date food has all but disappeared from my kitchen and there’s substantially less packaging to recycle.

It is enjoyable to shop from people whose names I know and who know mine, who ask how I am and can chat about what’s going on in the neighbourhood. Local shopping beats the supermarket experience any day and keeps the flame of independent business burning.
Giovanna Forte
London E2

FT, 12th February 2011
Life-work balance is less contradictory
From Ms Giovanna Forte
Sir, Why do I keep reading about the work-life balance? (Most recently in Sarah Sands’ diary in Life & Arts, February 5-6.) Intuitively, surely, the expression should be a less contradictory life-work balance (apart from which the latter has correct alphabetical order). I can only assume that whoever came up with the expression doesn’t have it.
Giovanna Forte,
London EC2, UK

FT, 30th August, 2010
Help – is there a bank willing to work with us?
From Ms Giovanna Forte
Sir, We are a small privately-funded British manufacturer making a British-designed, award-winning medical device that was approved by the NHS from May 1 this year and which we are starting to export. Our bank, NatWest, has taken some five months to fail to open a Collections account for us. Our relationship manager has neglected to advise us properly; in her absence on holiday, her replacement could assist only by rerouting us to the complaints department which, in turn, was unable to assist except to promise that our branch would be in touch within two working days. It was not.

One of the most serious outcomes of this protracted and unwelcome process is a delay in issuing some substantial invoices resulting in a temporary cash flow issue while more forms are completed and returned to the local business centre.

A request for a short-term overdraft to help resolve this bank-generated problem has been met with the routine lacklustre approach. Is there a bank out there, I wonder, that might be happy to work with a small medical devices manufacturer with the potential to save the NHS millions of pounds?
Giovanna Forte
London EC2

The Observer, 29th June, 2008
Don’t dress up, cheer up
Wersha Bharadwa (‘Ditched? It’s the best excuse for dressing up’, Comment, last week) has a valid point that the ditched woman’s best armour is to look drop-dead gorgeous. But dealing with the fallout of emotional abuse, duplicity and infidelity requires a major reconstruction of self-esteem. It’s the inside, not the outside that needs the work.
Giovanna Forte
London E2

The Guardian, 10th February, 2008
The boon of bringing up baby
I have brought up my children alongside a career and am increasingly less able to understand the insistence of society that women abandon their children in favour of ‘work’. (‘The glass ceiling isn’t broken – in fact, it’s getting thicker’, Business, last week). The role of bringing up the next generation has to be more important than running a successful company. The value attached to the development of balanced, happy, capable, strong adults must be understood to be greater than the value of the workplace. It is a fault of society that the role of the parent has become so demeaned. Business can wait; young lives cannot.
Giovanna Forte
London EC2

The Guardian, Hugh Muir’s Diary, 20 September 2007
A relieved Brighton will wave them all farewell today, but many of the publicans will feel a certain emptiness. “I can tell you’re not one of those Liberals going to that conference,” a taxi driver told our correspondent Giovanna Forte as she visited the city. “How do you know?” she asked. “You’re not breathing bloody booze all over me,” he said.

The Guardian, 6th May, 2005
Truth fairy
A Guardian-reading feminist I may be, but I confess that Cinderella is my favourite story – and film – of all time (Happily never after, G2, May 2). Women across the world toil daily to maintain an equilibrium for their children and, perhaps, their men. It’s a fact of life.

So here’s the rub: girl works butt off for years, triumphs over adversity, by chance meets a man who – on the basis of shoe size – delivers her to a life of leisure and, no doubt, joyfully regular pedicures. And she lived happily ever after. What, exactly, is the problem with that? Did I hear anyone say that fantasy is a terrible thing? I don’t think so.

Bring it on, fairy godmother.
Giovanna Forte
London

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