WHEN I said I was going in for an operation at the end of February, my mate said to me: "There's half of Hawes in't Friarage". That may or may not be true. But it's certain that people in places such as Hawes very much value local health services.

A few days ago I missed my appointment to remove stitches at the Central Dales Practice. I'd got the wrong time in my head.

No matter, I was fitted in at the end of the day, which was a very caring thing to do. We need and appreciate the investment the NHS is making in us.

Andrew Fagg, Hawes

Council tax

THE latest inflation-busting council tax bills have now dropped through our letterboxes with an ominous thud. This year’s 5.6 per cent overall increase is one of the biggest in the UK and means that over the last six years council tax bills for North Yorkshire/Harrogate have risen by a massive 18.7 per cent.

The element (including adult social care) levied by North Yorkshire County Council has increased by an eye-watering 21.6 per cent.

Over the same period average annual earnings have risen by just 9.7 per cent and inflation by about the same. Of course, many will have seen their earnings rise by far less than this and some not at all.

Our elected representatives have been engaged in the usual round of hypocritical handwringing and blame-shifting (“central government starve us of funds”) but ultimately it is hard-pressed council-tax payers who have to stump up the cash to fund this annual game of political ping-pong.

We may wonder who is actually representing our interests when decisions are made on council tax. It’s certainly not our councillors because, like obedient sheep devoid of independent thought, they vote the way they are instructed by their political parties.

However a ray of hope may be provided by the increasing prominence of the Tax Payers Alliance on the national stage.A campaigning, non-partisan organisation, the TPA is committed to reforming taxes and public services, cutting waste and speaking up for British taxpayers nationally and locally.

They regularly publicise examples of council waste and over-spending.

Councillors need to be held to account for their decisions before they demand more money from us in the future. The best way to do this is for us all to expose examples of unnecessary spending and waste and to lobby our local councillors on a regular basis.

John Warren, Ripon

New road

I REALISE that, for good reason, the South end of Northallerton Road can not be accessed from the new bypass between Brompton and Northallerton. During the public "consultation" it was pointed out repeatedly to the council representatives that if the vehicles queuing on a morning on Stokesley Road were allowed the option of Northallerton Road, very many of them would take it to get around the standing traffic and (very critically) to also get priority at the Stone Cross roundabout. The aim was to avoid the creation of a rat run.

And that's why I'd really like to know how the developers have been allowed to create just such a rat run through the new estate between Stokesley and Northallerton roads? Perhaps someone from the Hambleton District Council offices could give an explanation (after they've nipped through it to get to work in the morning?).

Wilf Hartley, Northallerton


MANY readers must feel there is an awful inevitability about the gradual decline of services provided at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton and that writing letters of protest and speaking of dismay at public meetings will be in vain.

I believe we must be more militant and direct our complaints at the forces that have brought this decision about.

We are told that there are contractual problems and that nobody applies for jobs advertised at the Friarage. But the Friarage is part of the same South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust which also manages the James Cook University Hospital, so why can’t the doctors who work at James Cook also work at the Friarage?

Well I haven’t found out the answer but my guess is that it’s not in their contract. And why might that be? Shall we ask the Trustees, [see the Trust web page]. They must have been aware of that surely?

Then there’s the Deanery, which organises the training of doctors. From what I’ve heard the Deanery believes that doctors should train in larger hospitals rather than smaller ones. If that’s the case then I think the Deanery should consider the wider responsibilities of the medical profession in the context of the rural community.

Another factor is the role of the Department of Health. All over England smaller hospitals are losing ground and more services are being concentrated in fewer, larger hospitals. That cannot be happening on a national scale without tacit Government approval. Let’s have some open honesty about that, and the effects of a two per cent annual funding cut, instead of hiding the issue under the cloak of "local financial responsibility".

Yesterday there was a serious accident on Darlington Road in Richmond and I believe the air ambulance was called on. That’s a potentially lifesaving service but cannot make up for the extra journey time for all the patients needing emergency care, where every extra minute could mean a life is lost or a disabling outcome from a stroke and longer ambulance journeys mean fewer ambulances will be available for new emergencies.

John Harris, Richmond

A bit canny

WATCHING the drama unfold over the changes at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton, I am strongly reminded about the similar anguish which surrounded the downgrading of the consultant-led maternity services at the hospital back in 2013.

Like thousands of others I joined the march from County Hall on that sunny day, heard some stirring speeches and felt good about doing my bit to keep services at the Friarage.

I vividly remember one speaker at the rally saying that those changes would lead to pregnant mums giving birth in laybys on the A684 in Wensleydale and lives would be lost as a result. We all believed that would be the case. But the changes went ahead anyway.

But all these years on, that hasn't happened to the best of my knowledge. I think we would have heard about such a tragedy if it had occurred.

So I think this time we need to be a bit canny about how we oppose any further changes. Saying that we don't believe the doctors and the Trust when they tell us about how they see it is a bit like saying black is white and the earth is flat.

I question what would their motivation be for lying to us? From what I've read in last week's D&S Times, this is not about money so surely if they could avoid all this aggro by simply recruiting the doctors they tell us they need, they would?

Given the excellent treatment I've had at the Friarage over the years, I've more reason than most to treasure what we have there. But we have to temper our passion for the hospital with some degree of realism and look to get the best possible service we can.

My fear is that that the more we ramp up the protest and the more publicity we generate the less and less appealing the Friarage becomes as a place to work – especially for those younger doctors we need to attract.

If I were such a young doctor finishing my training and looking for a job, and if I saw an opportunity to work at hospital like the Friarage which I didn't know much about, the first thing I'd do is Google it. A basic internet search would throw up a host of reasons to steer clear.

I am not suggesting giving the South Tees Trust an easy ride over this. But we need to be constructive and not simply blindly oppose everything that is suggested.

Trevor Sellars, Bedale

Thank you D&S

THANKS goodness for the Darlington & Stockton Times and its balanced coverage of the issues surrounding the changes at our beloved Friarage Hospital (D&S Times, March 8 and 15).

This is in stark contrast to some of the, at times, pitiful rubbish that finds its way into public consciousness via social media platforms like Facebook – of which I am a member.

In the recent days I have read some truly bizarre theories about what is happening along with some the totally justified and rightly expressed concern about the future of emergency services at the hospital.

Then I read one post in which the doctors and managers who run the hospital were described as "morons". How helpful is that?

We all have a right to question the senior NHS staff about their decisions (and will have the chance to do so at the public meeting called by Rishi Sunak MP on Friday) but nobody should be abused in this way.

Mr Sunak, who by the way I did not vote for last time, has been attacked too for having the temerity to organise this meeting. While others shout from the sidelines and indulge in political games, he gets on with the job of effectively holding the Trust to account.

Feelings may well be running high but we need to show some restraint and respect in order to get the best possible outcome for the Friarage.

Geoff Cousins, Catterick Garrison

New bridge

IT is good to see our local dignitaries holding on for dear life to our new bridge at Dalton Bridge (D&S Times, March 15). They were also extolling the virtues of the bridge and roadworks and the benefits that are going to be reaped following the completion. I totally agree the scheme is great. But the main purpose is to prevent the road from being blocked by floodwaters that gather over many acres of land either side of the road, and eventually pour over it when there is a heavy rain.

These many acres were flooded this weekend.

The amount of rain that came is nothing in comparison to 2015 and 2012. At these times the road and bridge were impassable due to flooding for many a day.

A section of this road, which is Dalton Lane, approaching the junction with the A167 flooded this past weekend.

The road was passable. I speculate that if the rain had been of the severity of 2015 and 2012 the road would not have been passable but blocked.

When I spoke on Monday to a Highways spokesperson I was asked: “Did the water drain away? If so we consider things are satisfactory." And the £4.8m pounds are well spent then?

Lawrence Whiteley, Dalton Bridge


I KNOW this is going to sound a bit sad, but the other day I was watching one of the endless re-runs of The Royal TV series – the Heartbeat spin-off set in 1960s Scarborough.

I've always enjoyed the character who plays the old-school hospital surgeon Mr Rose – Denis Lil I think – who seems to turn his hand to anything – hearts, lungs, broken legs, eye operations etc.

I guess that was typical of a time when surgeons did all sort of jobs, particularly in small cottage hospitals.

Recently I've had both a replacement knee and hip operations. Because the hip replacement had gone so well I asked for the same surgeon to do my knee but I was told: "Oh no he only does knees, you want Mr Smith because he's the hip specialist. That's all he does and he's your best bet." I am delighted to say he was right.

Then I thought about the situation at Friarage and thought it's this move towards more and more specialisation among which is hitting small hospitals. As I understand it, it is because the emergency care doctors are becoming more and more specialist, some will do anaesthesia, some critical care but increasingly not both. That's why we are where we are, I believe.

I don't know what the solution is but I think I do understand what has caused the problem.

Patricia Metcalfe, Leyburn

True facts

MY mother used to say that there were the facts and the true facts, and the truth and the half truth.

Many things are being said about the Friarage. People promoting them may believe they are true, but only critical analysis might show.

What do I believe? First, the NHS is desperately short of money.

Second, there are major shortages of staff, mainly resulting from the first.

Third, where supply and demand are out of kilter, staff can choose what suits them best. It maybe money, it maybe specialist benefits/experience.

Thus, where a specialism is not popular, money and resources will certainly help. The health trust claims it has tried that with regard to anaesthesia, but just how much benefit has been offered?

The authority also says it can’t require staff to work at different places, because of contractual aspects. I don’t believe that.

Fourth, the authority says that the possible new A&E regime at the Friarage will actually cost more than at present. If anything requires critical analysis, that does.

Fifth, it doesn’t matter how you look at this, by far the greatest issue, directly or indirectly, is lack of money. The service struggles on, much reliant on the goodwill of staff, but, as of now, it is breaking down. Who is to blame for this very sad state of affairs?

Some might shoot the arrows at the health trust, an easy target. I doubt there is much mileage in that, but it might enable some to try to deflect from the major shortcomings of the Government. Then, surely it must be the Government continually depriving the health services of money?

Then it is settled isn’t it? It is all down to the Government. Or is it? As George Osborne said recently, the public wants better services, but isn’t prepared to pay for them by tax increases. Next time someone bellyaches to you about the state of public services, ask whether they would pay be prepared more tax?

Ultimately, governments respond to the will of the people. If there isn’t that will, problems such as those at the Friarage will continue and worsen. It is down to us, not ‘them’.

Mervyn Wilmington, Harmby

Welcome news

THE decision by Julia Mulligan, the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, that she will not stand for re-election is welcome news. Not welcome is her assertion that "there is a lot more to do" and "I look forward to achieving as much as possible before May 2020". How much more harm is she going to do in the next year?

Instead of accepting that most people hereabouts do not approve of what she has done the PFCC still asserts "I have taken tough decisions which I firmly believe are the right ones", "I have used every mechanism available to me to make a difference" and "a lot has been achieved". It is clear that despite the recent vote against her she still does not get it.

It seems she does not accept responsibility for the distress she has caused the villagers in Newby Wiske and residents around the new headquarters in Northallerton. It would be much better if she recognised her failings and merely held the fort until she is replaced by somebody better. Pigs might fly. Yet under the flawed system which created her office there is absolutely nothing we can do about it for 12 months.

She refers to "decisions being made in full view". We still have no idea how much she wasted on her mistaken former intention to build a new headquarters at South Kilvington nor how much she wasted on moving the headquarters to the inadequate building at Northallerton. If that is "full view" I will eat my hat.

David Severs, Northallerton