Frogmoor is looking dire

Following on from Prince William’s TV Programme “A Planet for us All”, about the environment and how we should try and improve everything, especially where we live. What are the plans for the redevelopment of the Frogmoor area in High Wycombe?

All over the Wycombe district we see building sites of new houses going up, and of course, we do need more homes but we also need to improve our town centres, of which, Frogmoor is part. So I am asking what plans have our council got for this area?

At present Frogmoor looks extremely dire and run down, just brick and concrete everywhere, a real wasteland.

It needs to have a focal point, flower beds and more trees, maybe another fountain, so that Wycombe people can stop, sit and talk to one another instead of walking through it as fast as they can.

Outside the entrance to the Chiltern Shopping Centre (and that’s a joke) with only Wilko worthy of entering it for, someone has spilt a load of white paint.

This has been there for weeks with no attempt to clean it up, which does not improve the look of things.

Why does it have to remain like this? It’s not good enough!

Our town is looking very run down, I urge our council to think of the future generations who have to live here, and try and make our town something we can all be proud of.

Michael Curry, Penn

MPs’ letter virtue signalling?

I wonder why five local Conservative MP’s wrote to the BFP last week expressing ‘immense respect for all those in our public and care services’ (BFP letters page, October 16 - ‘Praise for public service’).

They separated those who support NHS frontline workers into groups. I would like to comment on the ‘social care sector’ – included because: ‘care homes have not only protected the health of older and elderly people but allowed them to thrive’. ‘Thrive’ surely does not correspond to the truth.

Last January the Care Providers Association twice asked the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) if there was any action they needed to take and who would supply personal protective equipment (PPE) when Covid reached the UK and were told there was nothing to be done.

On 25 February government guidance said there was “no need to do anything differently in any care setting at present” and: “It remains very unlikely that people receiving care in a care home ... will become infected.”

This advice was not withdrawn until 12 March. (On 3 March, England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, defended a lack of specific measures to protect care homes, saying: “One of the things we are keen to avoid is doing things too early.”)

The rapid discharge of thousands of NHS patients into the care system, to free hospital beds for Covid patients, began in mid-March. On 31 March care homes warned were at “breaking point” (not ‘thriving’). MHA, the country’s biggest charitable provider, said it had suspected Covid cases in more than half its facilities.

Even after this, on 2 April, the DHSC guidelines on discharging hospital patients into care homes said: “Negative tests are not required prior to transfers/admissions into the care home.”

Less than a fortnight afterwards, on 14 April, Chris Whitty said that 13.5 per cent of care homes had at least one case of Covid-19 and: “Care homes are one of the areas where there are large numbers of vulnerable people and … we would very much like to have much more extensive testing.”

On 28 April testing was expanded into care homes and the government recommended testing before admission to care homes. By then a wealth of international evidence suggested testing of all care home staff and residents, including asymptomatic people, helped control the disease, but testing in UK care homes was limited to people with symptoms.

At the end of May the CEO of the largest charitable care home provider, MHA, which had lost hundreds of residents to Covid, called this policy: “outrageous in the face of the evidence that is now available”. A report in the Guardian earlier in the month, quoting a leaked PHE report, said Matt Hancock’s claim to have “thrown a protective ring around care homes” was false, as agency workers, often employed on zero-hours contracts, had unwittingly spread the infection as the pandemic grew, with the result that at least 22,000 people had been estimated to have died in care homes in England and Wales from Covid.

In June an LSE study found the proportion of care home residents dying in UK homes was a third higher than in Ireland and Italy, about double that in France and Sweden, and 13 times higher than Germany. In England, 54 per cent of all excess deaths were in care homes.

A highly critical report, on June 11 by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), condemned the decision to rapidly discharge many vulnerable patients from NHS hospitals to care homes without first testing them for Covid-19.

James Bullion, president of ADASS, said: “It is clear that adult social care was rendered ill-equipped and under-resourced to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic by the failure of successive governments of all political colours to recognise and understand how essential social care is.”

ADASS said there had been too much emphasis on protecting the NHS at the expense of care homes, which had been treated as an “afterthought”. Far from ‘thriving’ this, with lack of testing and PPE, and a lack of policy focus on social care in the early weeks of the pandemic, had caused “tragic consequences for individuals”.

This is already a long letter (although about a long career of fatal misjudgement and complacency) so I shall leave this account there.

It would be possible to write angrily about temporary agency workers employed on the minimum wage and zero hours contracts, by care homes, while MPs mull over a possible inflation-beating pay rise for themselves, or about how Tory MPs blocked Labour’s attempt to scrap the one per cent cap on public sector pay rises in 2017, or the mind-boggling sums spent on ‘consultants’ and start-up companies with Tory connections, to supply essential PPE, rather than established NHS manufacturers and services.

Or about the health professionals honoured this month with the OBE and BEM - Felicia Kwaku, an associate director of nursing at King’s College NHS trust, said her OBE was for “fallen colleagues” - by the end of May, she had counted 77 nurses and midwives who had died. (Iain Duncan Smith, of Universal Credit fame, received a knighthood some months ago.) We are now facing a probably very difficult winter, as Covid makes a comeback, and the outcome of the latest, no doubt mind-bogglingly expensive, government initiative - ‘Operation Moonshot’ is being awaited after the failure of the disastrous ‘world beating’ test and trace app.

Why exactly did our five MP’s express ‘immense respect for all those in our public and care services’? No sensible decent person could fail to admire people like Ms Kwaku above, and her fallen colleagues, who continued with their jobs often without PPE, during the pandemic.

We don’t need MPs who deny them a decent wage to express admiration for them. We are used to faux patriotism, greed, and hypocrisy, from the government. I think the MPs’ letter above was what Conservatives often call ‘virtue signalling’. It certainly isn’t because care homes under this government have ‘thriven’.

Lawrence Linehan, Wooburn Green

MP’s comment on bishops

Wycombe MP Steve Baker suggests that the government could disestablish the Anglican Church.

This appears to be because he is upset over its criticism of his Government’s Internal Markets Bill.

However, as a born-again Christian Mr Baker will probably be familiar with the principle set out by Jesus Christ in St Matthew’s Gospel, 22:21: “… Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”

The bishops’ complaints are entirely consistent with that principle. They simply request that a Government spurred on by wild-eyed zealots – some of whom, like Mr Baker, claim to be intensely religious – stay within that most Caesarean of institutions, the law.

Mr Baker may perhaps be right about disestablishment, but for the wrong reasons.

Peter Roberts, Loudwater

‘Whataboutery’ seems irrelevant

Thank you again to Mr Linehan for his response from 16th October (letters page - ‘Not heard a sound case for HS2 yet’).

He has made it clear that he hasn’t or won’t hear “the case for HS2”. And unfortunately, I haven’t got the time to persuade him otherwise.

However, one final thing I would say is that it’s ironic he tries to highlight “prejudiced” data sources on the ‘build’ side but repeatedly quotes the chairwoman of #STOPHS2!

For example, saying there’s not been enough debate... Yes, the third reading debate of HS2 Construction Bill only went on for 37 minutes… But Mr Linehan, there was seven years of consultations and debate about HS2 preceding that.

And since then another four years of revisions and engineering changes in response to public feedback. It’s a ridiculous and bias argument for the chairwoman to make.

Mr Linehan gave the impression I was campaigning for HS2 when in reality I was just offering an opinion to the local paper.

My main point, which was very succinctly put by BFP staff, was that the council should embrace HS2 more positively.

This “whataboutery” all seems rather irrelevant given that HS2 is currently being built whether we like it or not; but believe me, if I was campaigning, I would be taking it much more seriously.

Mark Skoyles, Marlow

A plea for families to get the flu jab

Due to the Covid pandemic this year’s flu vaccination programme has been expanded to include more at risk groups including parent carers and children and young people with long-term health conditions or a learning disability.

This follows new analysis that shows an increased risk of having coronavirus with flu.

As a charity working to support parent carers we know many are often too busy to think about their own health. And we know that the Coronavirus pandemic has stopped almost half of families with disabled children from seeking medical care for themselves and their children.

That’s why Contact is urging eligible families with disabled children in Buckinghamshire to get the flu vaccine.

Who is eligible?

• All children aged 2-11 – Primary school age children and children in year seven of secondary school will get their flu vaccination at school, so look out for the consent forms. Younger children and those who are home educated can get their vaccine at a community health clinic or your GP surgery.

• All children aged 12-17 who have a long-term health condition or a learning disability – you can choose whether to get your child vaccinated at a community health clinic or your GP surgery. Get in touch with them to arrange.

• Young people aged 18 and over with a long-term health condition or a learning disability.

• Carers, including parent-carers, are eligible for the free flu vaccine if you receive Carer’s Allowance or are the main carer for a disabled person who may be at risk.

Getting the flu vaccination is one way to protect the health of parent carers, children and young people with disabilities.

Amanda Batten, Chief Executive, Contact, the charity for families with disabled children

Can you help find RAF man?

I am ex-RAF and recently I have been contacted because somebody is looking for Mike Smith.

We believe that he came from Amersham and his dad either had a garage or was involved in the motor trade.

He was an RAF Apprentice 1962 to 65 in the 101st Entry at RAF Locking Weston Super Mare.

He will be about the same age as me - 74. Could anybody that has information reference where he lives etc. get in touch?

Tony Grundy, Ex 101st Entry at RAF Locking, via email