Last month I revealed that Paul Burstow, the social care minister, refused to meet Jamie Buchan, the Southern Cross CEO, on several occasions before the UK’s biggest care home operator went bust. This was despite the fact that Buchan warned that his company was in financial difficulty.
Today the letters that I quoted from have been laid in the Commons library, along with a couple of other previously unseen messages, which show Buchan tried more often than we previously realised to secure such a meeting.
The first contact came from Buchan’s personal assistant on July 30, saying:
Southern Cross Healthcare is the largest provider of elderly care in the UK, and Mr Buchan would appreciate the opportunity to meet you, at your convenience, to outline our views on how we see the industry and the challenges we face.
She received a brief reply from someone in the customer service centre at the Department of Health saying among other things:
I hope you will appreciate that due to the pressures on the minister’s diary at the moment, he is unable to accept your meeting request.
It was only after this initial contact, it seems, that Buchan escalated the matter by writing to Burstow personally. Still the requests were rebuffed, and as of last month, the pair had still not met.