IT is inevitable that there will have to be an inquiry about the transfer of people from hospitals to care homes, but the investigation needs to start well before the outbreak of the coronavirus. When the demand came along for beds to be cleared so that the NHS could cope with the expected influx of patients, it was accompanied by a "money is no object" offer. Almost unknown in living memory, the higher prices charged by some private care homes were suddenly not a problem. Private homes that could usually not be afforded by local authorities were suddenly the first port of call if they had capacity.

What a pity it is that some of this money was not available earlier. Not just because the cash-strapped NHS would have been in a far better position to cope, but bed blocking would not have been such an issue.

Bed blocking has been a problem for many years, the SNP Government has tried to integrate health and social care, but it has systematically cut local authority funding, and integration has not happened. The funding cuts have had an impact on local authority care packages, which have been delayed. And the cash restraint has meant carers on short contracts with low pay, many care home vacancies, underpaid and undervalued staff and no career progression. An environment open to risk taking, does anyone believe the carer who turns up for work at 8pm and hasn't got any PPE is not going to take a chance?

Funding cuts from the Scottish Government led to bed blocking, which has led to rushed transfers to care homes, quite possibly resulting in excess deaths. Whatever comes out of the inevitable review, we need a National Care Service, to work alongside the NHS, paid for out of general taxation.

Phil Tate, Edinburgh EH14.

THE graph on that accompanied Helen McArdle's article about Covid death rates in Scotland compared to England ("Coronavirus: Is Scotland's 'slow and steady' exit already working?") was used to demonstrate that Scotland's slow release of lockdown measures was working well, but I was curious to see in the graph that Scotland struggled with steady death rates all through April at a time when the death rates in England were falling; we started the pandemic with lower infections and death rates than England, so what were we doing wrong that caused us to catch up?

I decided to investigate the weekly death figures from the Office of National Statistics, and I removed those deaths that occurred in care homes. Sure enough, it turns out that if you ignore care home deaths Scotland did show a steep decline all through April, and in fact the recent fall in deaths looks like a steady continuation of that trend. So I would argue that the fact that we've dipped back below England in death rate has less to do with the stricter lockdown measures, and more to do with the authorities finally getting control of the situation in care homes. It really demonstrates how tragic a mistake it was to have so rigorously followed the guidance of moving elderly patients from hospitals in to care homes at the beginning of the pandemic.

They say we're all amateur epidemiologists these days, but as a data scientist I've never been afraid to draw conclusions from data beyond my area of expertise.

Eddy Barratt, Edinburgh EH16.

NICOLA Sturgeon has been warned by a senior economic advisor, Andrew Wilson, who drew up up the SNP’s Growth Commission Report that Scotland could have the worst performing economy in the developed world following Covid19 ("nations ("Scotland faces having the worst performing economy in the developed world, warns key Sturgeon adviser", The Herald, June 18). One might be tempted to believe that since forecasts of severe economic difficulties have been around for months that a great deal of planning would be going on at Holyrood. After all Nicola Sturgeon has said she "will move Heaven and Earth to get the country back to normal” . There is a cabinet committee charged with monitoring the economic impact of the current emergency. It meets only once a week. In addition the Scottish Government has established an “advisory group on economic recovery”. The group is chaired by Benny Higgins, a former chief of Tesco Bank, and the only one with extensive private sector experience. Of the eight panellists four are academics, one a trade unionist and two have spent almost their entire careers in the public sector.

A summary of the group's most recent meeting noted that the “key points” raised were “opportunities for carbon capture and sequestration” as part of “delivering” on the Government’s “ commitment to meet its net zero emissions goal”, and presentations on what Scotland can offer “future international trading and investment partners to help in the green recovery towards a wellbeing economy”. These issues, whilst no doubt worthy long-term ambitions, are hardly the stuff of things that will assist the economy in the current crisis or in any way prevent Andrew Wilson’s warning becoming a reality. Talk about fiddling while Rome burns. Ms Sturgeon has a strange conception of moving Heaven and Earth”.

Donald Lewis, Gifford.