I WAS glad to see you covering the issue of elderly care in Scotland (Severe staff crisis in care could get worse, The National, March 6).

Scottish Care, the organisation representing private care providers in Scotland, have submitted their concerns to Holyrood’s Health Committee regarding further staff shortages as a result of Brexit.

They further state that “measures must be put in place to make working in the sector a more attractive option for UK citizens” – quite the point!

Having some knowledge of a relative working in the private home-visit sector, I could not agree more that “making it more attractive” is a priority.

Her job description was as follows:

Standard working hours:

7am-10am – morning calls

11am-2pm – lunch calls

4pm-6pm – dinner calls

7pm-11pm – “tuck-in” calls

...and as required by management.

Typically workers would sign up for shifts to work in with their life commitments, but many who were depending on this as their only income would require to work from 7am to 11pm to earn a decent wage.

Even those who selected only particular times were weekly put under pressure to take additional shifts due to short staffing.

The reward for all this dedication and flexibility was the minimum wage, not the living wage.

Training was five days “in office”, followed by a week of “on calls” supervision.

Operationally, carers were expected to stick strictly to the time allocated to the client by the occupational therapist. Normally 15 minutes, but in extreme dependency cases a maximum of 30 minutes, irrespective of what was the situation and requirements. Payments were effectively “docked” for exceeding a visit time.

No payments were made for the time taken to travel between homes.

In her own case, on any shift, my relative would spend more time travelling than attending to patients.

I think readers will by now have a clear understanding as to why there is a crisis in recruitment and crucially retention.

It is not a great job offer!

That said, carers are dedicated and compassionate people, and should not be taken advantage of. It is often said that they are “the most vulnerable looking after the even more vulnerable”.

What is to be done?

I think Scottish Care have, in their submission, inadvertently identified a way to start to address the problem.

Their submission warns of potential closures, implying the sector is not viable in the private sector.

I would like to see the Scottish Government take this opportunity to bring the sector back into public ownership, as it was up until the privatisation mania of the Thatcher and Blair eras.

It seems to me that this evolving crisis is an ideal opportunity. An opportunity to bring it directly under the control and ownership of NHS Scotland.

My relative gladly is now working as an auxiliary nurse in the NHS and would not go back to the private health care sector even if you paid her, excuse the pun!

Ian Stewart

Isle of Skye

I SEE Nicola Sturgeon is quite rightly putting pressure on Mark McDonald, the former SNP children’s minister, to stand down altogether as an MSP (Sturgeon heaps pressure on MSP to stand down, The National, March 7).

I can’t help but compare that high standard of behaviour in public life with the case of Damien Green. He remains not only in Westminster but in the Tory party.

Derek Ball