EIGHT months ago I was trying to find a care home bed for an elderly relative with dementia who could no longer be looked after at home.

Of 10 care homes in the local area that could provide the level of care needed there was only bed available. Every private care home had waiting lists. The local authority-run care homes could not provide the level of care required.

I can't believe that things have improved in that sector since last year and I am shocked to read that 600 care beds in Scotland are already being used to relieve pressure on the NHS, and a further 300 have been identified ("Extra £8m for care beds to ease winter crisis in NHS’", The Herald, January 11) .

What is supposed to happen to the people on care home waiting lists who are not in hospital? Elderly people with advanced dementia who live alone and for whom care services delivered at home don't even begin to meet their needs? If they have no one to speak for them how are they going to find the care they need?

This is crisis management at its worst. My personal experience over the past couple of years is that everyone who works in the NHS and in the care sector go above and beyond day after day after day.

In the meantime our politicians are letting us down day after day after day.
Carol Vanzetta, East Kilbride

• THE plan to buy up beds in care homes seems to be a recipe for disaster, as was the case when sending Covid-positive or untested patients to homes previously.

Why, if all these beds are suddenly available, have they not already been filled? Why did the Scottish Government not act sooner? Is it because it has not given enough to local authorities to help fund these places? Why is there such a delay in getting care at home for people who are ready to be discharged? Is there a lack of funding for that locally? Are there not enough care workers employed?

Most importantly, will those discharged be tested for Covid and other infections before they leave hospital? Has anyone asked the patients what they want? Not all will be elderly and care homes may be the wrong place. Also, crucially, will the Health Secretary guarantee that he or his staff have checked the suitability of homes by looking up the Care Commission website to see inspection reports, gradings and any requirements for improvement? Do the care home owners want all these people suddenly coming in?

Also, more people would be able to look after their own relatives at home if the Carer's Allowance, a paltry sum, were to be increased to the level of the living wage. To qualify for it a person has to guarantee that they will look after someone for a minimum of 35 hours a week – that's a full-time job with an allowance lower than unemployment benefit. I looked after my own elderly bedridden mother for 20 years, giving up my career to do so, but I understand that not everyone would be in a position to do that. However, it would be a possibility for many I believe if the Carer's Allowance were increased immediately.
Dorothy Connor, Glasgow

Wrong to take from other countries

CATRIONA C Clark (Letters, January 11) states that Scotland’s shortage of NHS staff resulting from Brexit “can only be addressed by Scotland rejoining the EU”.

First, it is disgraceful that she still expects other countries, many of them poorer, to provide our health and care staff.

Secondly, to rejoin would take several years, during which time our Holyrood Government could make the political decision to admit its past errors and reverse its deliberate policy for several years of limiting our numbers of Scottish nursing and doctor trainees in favour of those from outside Scotland.

Thirdly, could she (or preferably your impartial health experts) provide credible evidence that Scotland’s nurses are the “best paid in the UK” (at all grades and to include pensions and other benefits) as I have seen that assertion denied elsewhere? And if true, is it partially or wholly funded by the Barnett formula effect?
John Birkett, St Andrews

• CATRIONA C Clark correctly states that we have still heard no constructive solutions from the opposition in Scotland regarding the Health Service. However, the answer is given by Michael Laggan (Letters, January 11), who points out that we have major healthcare decisions being made by people with little or no practical clinical experience. Consequently politicians in government and in opposition should leave the running of the Health Service to a dedicated team of clinicians and other suitably qualified individuals.

At the same time as seeking such individuals the Government should also try to find someone who has actual experience of having built a boat, thereby resolving another particular difficulty which affects people on Arran who need to access hospitals on the mainland.
Sandy Gemmill, Edinburgh

Staff deserve so much better

DURING December I became ill and was referred to the QEUH Glasgow twice by my excellent GP, Dr Vimal Amin of the Nithsdale Merryvale practice in Glasgow. I had a viral infection of my lungs and a secondary bacterial infection. It was considered that I was in heart failure and I was found to have all the symptoms of that condition.

Throughout my illness I received top-class treatment from Dr Amin and when in the Immediate Assessment Unit and Acute Medical Assessment Unit of the QEUH from the doctors, radiologists, nurses, auxilliary nurses and other staff who work there.

They are all wonderful people who are doing their very best to deliver first-class treatment in a pleasant and efficient way. They are warm and caring people who somehow are able to be cheerful, sympathetic and helpful to all their patients.

They deserve so much better from the Scottish Government. They are grossly underpaid and grossly overworked.

Perhaps one day we will find out how the Scottish Government has spent or applied the monies it has received from the UK Government. But not enough is spent on paying NHS Scotland doctors, nurses and support staff. They deserve a huge pay rise and proper working conditions now. And people in Scotland deserve a first-class health service.

Nicola Sturgeon has only ever cared about gaining independence. She and her Government have broken faith with the people of Scotland on health, education, justice and ferries. She and John Swinney would do well to remember the fate of Moses and Aaron, who broke faith with God and never got to their Promised Land.
James K Mitchell, Glasgow

A way to ease pay problems

AS a retired hospital consultant, I despair that the failure to act meaningfully to retain and reward experienced staff of all types in the NHS will damage it to the point where it no longer works at all.

When (not just if) this happens, the Scottish Government will undoubtedly get the blame even although most of it should be directed at the Westminster Government, which has pursued policies designed to destroy the NHS gradually but deliberately since 2010. "Marketisation" and a greater role for the private sector are being followed increasingly in England. They have even taken a leaf out of Lenin's teaching, "if you want to destroy something, first destroy its finest assets". Successive inadequate pay settlements, pension scheme changes (which apply equally in Scotland) and staff shortages made worse by Brexit have progressively eroded the morale of all staff, but this has its greatest effect when the most experienced and senior staff burn out, lose heart and decide that the only way the can hope to survive is to retire early.

Can I suggest a way forward which can apply not only to the NHS but to all public sector disputes, including that involving teachers?

I suggest that the money available for pay rises should be "end-loaded" – that is, divided up so that the final month's salary in March is such that no one is worse off at the end of the year in real terms than they were at the beginning, and that this salary would become the base salary for the next financial year. While this would mean that the total annual pay rise for 2022-23 would be lower than inflation, it would also mean that salary negotiations for the financial year 2023-24 could start unencumbered by the existing financial constraints which severely limit the Scottish Government. As such, it may offer a way forward not only in Scotland but in other nations. It is certainly much more sensible and of greater long-term benefit to both employers and employees than a one-off payment could ever be.
John Hunter, Linlithgow


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