Merging the NHS and social care is a very bad idea (“Sajid Javid working on radical plan to integrate social care with health”, News). Better integration, yes, merger, no. Your article says that the plan “would amount to one of the most far-reaching reforms since the NHS was founded in 1948”. It would – with devastating impacts on social care and on the NHS. Social care is means tested; if the two are merged, the NHS will come under pressure to explore means testing for its own services.
We don’t want the sickness model and transactional aspects of medicine imposed on social care. Social care and support is not some cheap version of healthcare. Disabled people need support to live free and independent lives and the NHS is not great at providing this. Integrated care has been in place in Northern Ireland for decades, yet people there still face inadequate support and institutionalised care.
Social care has always been the weaker sister. The NHS attracts and keeps funding in a way that social care never has. In the merger of two grossly underfunded services, social care would lose out further. Our campaign argues for close working between health and care, enabling people to take as much control over their lives as they choose. We fight for a National Care, Support and Independent Living Service.
Dr Brian Fisher, on behalf of NACSILS
Facing up to the ‘B’ word
Anand Menon is right to point out that, while both the main parties choose to avoid Brexit, the “B” word is all around us (“Seldom mentioned but influencing everything… why are so many afraid of the ‘B’ word?”, Comment). More of us should have realised that the spurious promise of “getting Brexit done” avoided the blooming obvious, that Brexit will not be done with us for years. What should Labour do – move on or, more responsibly, recognise that it has to offer a route back, to at least rejoining the single market? That may well be a viable way to power and it is assuredly the only answer to the chaos that will continue to unfold in a nation that has been soundly duped.
Beverley, East Yorkshire
Love in an academic climate
Torsten Bell might be on to something when highlighting the link between university course and long-term romantic happiness, though not necessarily limited to heterosexual marriage (“Pick the wrong degree and even wedding bells are less likely”, Comment). The definition needs to embrace same-sex couples who have better opportunities to meet significant others on courses dominated by their gender. Who could deny that the quest for our significant other is high on the agenda – and not only when entering higher education? I vividly remember discussions with other candidates for a teaching role in Milton Keynes: most of us concluded that we would be better placed in a university town in our quest for long-term relationships.
Perhaps universities’ and schools’ recruitment and marketing departments could get in on the act. Publishing data to show how many recruits found their life partners while working or studying within the institutions could well draw in good candidates. And perhaps there could be a new column in the Guardian best university tables published every year.
Ryde, Isle of Wight
Eat plants and save the world
The growth of veganism was initially due to concerns about the appalling ways in which animals are treated, particularly on factory farms (“From fringe to mainstream: why millions got a taste for going vegan”, Focus). The recent growth is also due to increasing awareness of climate change and rainforest destruction, both of which are linked to animal farming. And last year’s recommendation of a plant-based diet by the World Health Organization, which you mention, will have helped too. However, there are other reasons.
Farming animals is a very inefficient way of feeding people, using far more land, water and energy than is needed for a vegan diet. If we are to feed the world’s growing population, we need to move away from animal farming. Also, intensive animal farming (which means most animal farming) is one of the main causes of water pollution in many countries, including the UK.
Iain Green, director, Animal Aid
Men, porn can be dangerous
Why do articles about the dangers of pornography to children have to be written by women (“How do we talk to our teens about sex in a world of porn?”, Focus)? Much of today’s pornography contains aggression and violence towards women and girls.
Where is the outrage from men? Where are the male journalists writing about this and showing their concern for their sons having a healthy sex education?
Unions are fighting back
Kenan Malik (“Blame the erosion of union power, not migrants, for poor wages”, Comment) rightly highlights what Boris Johnson conveniently ignores in his perverse narrative of a “low-wage, low-skill economy”: the systematic assault on workers’ collective organisations by Tory governments over the last 40 years. Western Europe’s most restrictive laws on industrial action, barely altered under New Labour and strengthened during David Cameron’s premiership, have undoubtedly contributed to the erosion of real pay. Malik could also have pointed to the allied push to privatise tens of thousands of ancillary jobs.
This transfer of already low-paid jobs in cleaning, catering, facility management and social care has invariably led to worse pay and conditions. Private employers have frequently bought out previous contractual rights, not least in social care. New recruits can be hired on contracts that offer no more than statutory minimums, so excluding occupational sick pay.
Arguably, the tide has begun to turn, with local authorities such as Hackney insourcing some 300 jobs and £12m in outsourced contracts since 2018.
George Binette, Hackney North & Stoke Newington Labour party trade union liaison officer
Don’t spurn my help, Britain
It is no wonder there is a nursing crisis when the Nursing and Midwifery Council still lives in prehistoric times (“Nursing crisis sweeps wards as NHS battles to find recruits”, News). I am an Australian-educated registered nurse living in the UK after returning last year. I have more than 20 years’ experience in nursing, some at management level. I contacted the council on numerous occasions to see if I could help out with the nursing crisis and Covid vaccination. I was told that this could take three to six months, at a cost of £1,200. In short, they have made it far too difficult and expensive to even bother.
I also have an Australian HGV licence and when I contacted the DVLA regarding the driver shortage, I was told that this is not recognised in the UK. It astounds me that Australia is not recognised as an equal in both these circumstances. The UK is crying out for help.