Letters: Care Providers

Must we rescue private homes?
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The Independent Online

It is a sad indictment of the greed of the money markets that British taxpayers may have to rescue more than 30,000 pensioners at Southern Cross, Britain's largest care provider (letters, 2 June). The bailout would likely cost hundreds of millions of pounds after ruthless City venture capitalists left Southern Cross Healthcare in a potentially insolvent situation.

US private equity company Blackstone acquired Southern Cross for £160m in 2004 and allegedly quadrupled its investment when it sold it three years later.

It achieved this by selling off the company's property portfolio, depriving Southern Cross of its capital and forcing it to lease the properties back from the company the homes had been sold to.

This is yet another example of why "free market forces" do not work in social care and health organisations.

As the BBC's Business Editor, Robert Peston, said, "At what point (if ever) would the private sector's clout within the NHS be so great that private providers would be able to hold to ransom taxpayers who finance them (pay us more, or else), eroding the productivity gains?

"As we've seen with the financial crisis at the care home provider Southern Cross, the threat of an interruption of a vital service is quite a bargaining chip for a health provider."

Competition in the NHS is not the answer to the improvement of healthcare provision.

Henry Page

Newhaven, East Sussex

One now wonders if the recent case will finally halt the NHS reforms planned by this Coalition Government. We all know that a pause to these rushed reforms has been instigated due to the growing concerns raised by both the general public and the healthcare workers, including the General Medical Council.

No matter how attractively the involvement of the private sector is dressed up if profit is put before the needs of patients then that is unacceptable and incidents like this will continue to occur.

We know what supermarkets do to town centres and we know what the contracting out of hospital cleaning services did for in-house infections. The public needs an accountable chain of command where we can seek out the persons to blame when horrific events like this occur.

People have the right to blame the nurse, doctor, consultant, hospital director or health authority responsible for their loves ones' suffering and they have the right to see improvements made to ensure that it does not occur again.

One wonders how many other healthcare providers are like Castlebeck, which employs 2,100 people, providing care for 580 service users at 56 locations, all waiting for an opportunity to move in on the NHS during these so-called efficient reforms.

As the founding father of the NHS, Aneurin Bevan, said, "The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it." We must stop this war on the fabric of our society.

Graham Forsyth

Chard, Somerset

I am a 90-year-old mother of a son with learning difficulties. I have seen many changes in my lifetime but after watching the BBC Panorama programme about abuse in care homes, I fear that the society that I once served to protect is a far more primitive nation than the progressive community we pretend to be.

The programme was a portrait of cruelty, barbarianism and neglect, and exposed all the ugliness and shame that is the underbelly of 21st-century Britain.

I wonder where we have gone so wrong that celebrity and scandal have become our national focus and those less fortunate, who should be protected, nurtured and loved in safe and caring environments, are left to be so systematically abused. I guess being small in a big society is more a case of "out of sight, out of mind".

Phylis Lawrence

Barnstaple, North Devon

Southern Cross, the country's biggest residential home operator, faces bankruptcy with catastrophic consequences for the 31,000 elderly residents in its care.

This news broke at the same time as the systematic abuse of clients at a unit for people with learning disabilities run by the Castlebeck company came to light.

The private care sector has been totally discredited. Yet Health Secretary Andrew Lansley chooses this moment to announce that the Con-Dems intend to press on with their plans to privatise the NHS and outsource NHS care to "any qualified provider".

That will mean "qualified providers" of the likes of Southern Cross and Castlebeck will be able to get their hands on the NHS. The Con-Dems can't be allowed to destroy the NHS. The profit motive and the provision of quality social care for the sick and elderly are incompatible.

Sasha Simic

London N16

The Care Quality Commission seems to unearth bad practice when they make unannounced inspections of care homes and hospitals.

In view of their reduced funding, maybe they should instigate only unannounced inspections, and ensure that every institution is inspected every year. This should pose no threat to well-run organisations, but keep the others on their toes.

Angela Comer

Clacton-on-Sea, Essex

How can 161,000 people get lost?

With respect to Oscar Wilde, to lose one asylum-seeker, Mr Cameron, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose 161,000 looks like plain carelessness (report, 2 June).

And in The Big Society, in the Land of Joined-up Government, in Britain, under a Coalition Government, how can anyone keep themselves under the government radar and establish a family to give credence to "their human rights" and rights to stay?

It beggars belief.

Imagine, 161,000 people here in the UK for more than six years, with no medical records, no hospital records, no children and schooling records, no tax returns, no bank details, nothing from HMRC, no car details, driving licence, road-tax, insurance, TV licence, no phone?

Never mind actual employment records or even unemployment records and welfare, child and housing benefits, and no records at all with the police. Joined-up government? I don't think so.

That is like losing everyone in Basingstoke, or even High Wycombe. But hey ho; it's all a bit too hard to handle for our Coalition Government; so just give up, and if 161,000, having managed to smuggle themselves into the country, and cheat, swindle, and lie for six years we will reward them with the right to stay, at our cost, and recompense them for the pleasure.

As for the asylum-seekers who applied "the right way" whatever that is and failed, only to be unceremoniously kicked out of Britain, oh, how they must sorely regret not living illegally for six years.

This is madness.

Christopher Shillinglaw

Blythburgh, Suffolk

Your report ("Failings 'mean amnesty for asylum-seekers' ", 2 June) merely confirms what the British public already knows: that Britain's immigration and asylum system is in complete disarray; and that no serious attempt is being made to control illegal immigration.

Most illegal immigrants, especially from the Indian sub-continent, travel on a valid visa to a non-EU country. From there, they make their way to Calais, then stowaway to Britain on a lorry. Their first point of contact here is a religious centre (temple, mosque etc), which they use as a conduit to enter the indigenous community.

When you add in bogus students and "visitors", Britain's statistics on illegal immigration look worryingly high.

Britain always has had illegal immigration. But before 1997, illegal immigrants were arrested and deported. Now they get options to apply for political asylum and amnesty, and increasingly many are rewarded for breaking the law with the permanent right to stay. The Government does not seem to realise that illegal immigration, tempered with amnesty, induces more, not less illegal immigration.

Randhir Singh Bains

Gants Hill, Essex

CGT the key to more housing

What a pity Sean O'Grady's common sense couldn't actually have been the cover story (Comment, 31 May). For so long, savings and investment have been distorted in the UK by successive governments meddling with incentives for home ownership and encouraging everyone to take on more debt than they can afford.

The final nail in the coffin should be the removal of the capital gains tax exemption on principal private residences. This should, of course, be accompanied by the removal of stamp duty on purchases to allow the market to operate freely.

Charles Buckley

London SW7

Sam's gap years

Joan Smith's piece on age (Opinion, 31 May) muses on "Sam Cam", saying she used to listen to Blondie but now listens to Lady Gaga and is not going to pretend she is suddenly a big fan of Mahler. I have been reading Ms Smith for many years so assume she is no spring chicken. I would expect her to have made a little more progress in the 30-year gap between the two ladies. How about Mahalia Jackson, Ella Fitzgerald or even Amy Winehouse?

Jeff Hebblewhite

Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Plus ça change

For all the talk of women's place and function, it is epitomised by the press reporting on the President's recent visit: men have fun and get to play table tennis, women sit sedately in the kitchen, chat and show off their expensive gadgets.

Margaret Hayday

Benfleet, Essex

Hard volley

Your tennis correspondent Paul Newman has again stated (2 and 3 June) that there has been no Briton in the final of the French Open since Fred Perry in 1935. Has he forgotten Sue Barker's victory over Renata Tomanová in 1976, or does a woman not count?

Barbara Finlay-Kentish

London N20

Perspectives on Olympic ticket sales

Those that have get even more

I read that a quarter of a million people have been unlucky in the ballot for Olympic tickets and been offered no tickets for any event. The 2012 Olympics were promoted as the Games where ordinary people would be able to participate, but the motto seems to have been "to those that have shall be given more".

To show that the distribution of tickets really succeeded in giving everybody a fair chance, Locog will need to be completely transparent about the process of ticket allocation.

It should provide full information, for every session of every event, of how many tickets have gone to, respectively, members of the "Olympic family", providers of corporate hospitality, and individuals applying for tickets collectively worth a) over £4,000, b) between £1,000 and £4,000 and c) less than £1,000.

If Locog are unable or unwilling to provide a proper breakdown of ticket sales, the 2012 Olympics is likely to be remembered as a spectacle for the rich and influential from which ordinary people were comprehensively excluded.

In today's economically depressed Britain, this would be a hugely disappointing legacy.

David Hewitt

London N1

You got yours? That's rich

Having checked my credit-card account, it appears I have not been allocated any of the Olympics tickets I applied for. From listening to the news reports, it strikes me that most people successful in this lottery were prepared to bid at least £10,000 or more and that sports enthusiasts such as myself who bid for tickets in the £500 to £1,000 bracket received nothing.

If I am wrong in this assumption then perhaps successful applicants would let me know. I certainly have spoken to many of my colleagues whose position was similar to mine; not one of them has been allocated tickets.

Was it the case that this "lottery" was so heavily weighted towards the wealthy and rich, and that true aficionados and those at the grassroots of sport who are perhaps less well off are denied a chance to witness a once in a lifetime experience?

John Dunn

Newmarket, Suffolk