Friarage meeting

I WASN’T able to get to Friday’s meeting about the Friarage but I watched it later via Rishi Sunak’s Facebook page.

I’m not a natural supporter of Mr Sunak and his party but I thought he chaired the meeting very well. It was an excellent idea to make a recording of it available online.

He made sure that as many points of view were expressed in the time available although I suspect it could have gone on for even longer than the two hours it lasted.

These points of view included some political posturing but he dealt with that in a cool and calm way and got the debate back to the issue at hand which I believe is not to do with politics in a party sense.

The doctors were very good in explaining the situation they faced at the Friarage and I along with many others present appreciated their candidness.

One of the most telling contributions was from the lady who used to run a unit at the Friarage. Hearing her say she felt reassured by what she had been told at the meeting was in itself reassuring.

Some people insist that lives will be lost because of these changes. After viewing last Friday’s meeting and really feeling the passion and commitment of the doctors behind the changes and the plan for the future, I really don’t think that’s the case any more. My life in their hands? Certainly.

Jenny Woodward, Osmotherley

No confidence

I ATTENDED the meeting concerning the Friarage Hospital, arranged by our MP Rishi Sunak, at Northallerton School on Friday last. It seemed a better meeting than some we have attended in the past – Dr James Dunbar and Dr Adrian Clement appeared to be sympathetic towards the Friarage, however denials about closures do not fill us with confidence.

Previous closures did, in fact, actually take place. I can cast my mind back to when South Tees and James Cook "took over" the Friarage on April 1, 2002 (I was working there and had been for the previous 20 years.)

At the first meeting that the new "boss" (of our division) held – he stated that "from now on the Friarage will be run as a business". We (the Friarage staff) found ourselves under the jurisdiction of various members of staff from James Cook – with many more layers of management than had previously existed.

The annoying thing was that some of the people to whom we were then responsible actually weren’t as well qualified as some of us! Very soon big changes took place and we were told that we had to work with the staff from James Cook, that there would be no redundancies and that if we didn’t like it – it was implied we should get on our bikes.

Well, lots of us did just that and many of the staff – which both Dr Dunbar and Dr Clements now say are desperately needed – left.

As well as that, equipment began to be taken, by van, up the road. There is a piece of equipment (amongst many others) on a corridor at James Cook with a plaque inscribed "donated by Mr and Mrs Bloggs to the Friarage hospital".

Wards and departments began to close and that is partly why doctors don’t want to work at the Friarage – because there is nothing left for them to work on.

At a meeting held some years ago, representatives of South Tees Trust, claimed that the children’s unit was not closing as they had just spent a considerable amount of money building a new unit (for children), not to mention pathology laboratories, pharmacy etc. However that money was, in effect, ring fenced and could not be spent on anything else (it was already in place before James Cook took over the Friarage).

As we all know the children’s unit was closed, as well as CCU, the Rutson, and neonatal, while maternity services were downgraded to a midwife led unit. This was followed by the closure of other wards, recently mental health and finally accident and emergency.

Well done James Cook – after 17 years – mission accomplished.

Barbara Walker, Finghall


I WAS at the public meeting in Northallerton organised by MP Rishi Sunak last Friday into the changes at the Friarage Hospital and I have to say I was very much impressed by the way the two doctors – Clements and Dunbar – addressed the issues raised by the packed audience.

I know it is fashionable these days to not take the word of experts as gospel and to question authority and accepted wisdom but I defy anyone of sound mind to suggest that the two doctors didn’t know what they were talking about last Friday.

A couple of points they made – with authority and sincerity – I think are worth highlighting. Firstly, the issue with recruiting the right doctors is real and not likely to change in the short term. Secondly, more money will not make a difference when these particular doctors have decided, as individuals, and collectively through professional standards bodies like the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, that small intensive care units like the Friarage’s with just three beds are not the best places to work.

Thirdly, I found it reassuring to hear them say that lives will not be at risk because of the changes and that patients will get the best care at the right time. Indeed, they said they are making the changes to ensure patient safety.

Those of us who have fought over the years to keep services at the Friarage should, I believe, be encouraged at what we heard on Friday. The hospital clearly does have a future in the care of these very impressive doctors. Yes, it will not provide exactly the same services as it did five, ten or 15 years ago but which hospital does as medical advances have been made?

I left the meeting at Northallerton School much more confident that there can be a sustainable future for the Friarage Hospital which will enable the vast majority of people in this part of North Yorkshire to get the treatment they need at their local hospital.

I’d like to thank the Dr Clements and Dr Dunbar for giving up their time to talk at the meeting and for being so frank about the situation.

James Ford, Brompton, Northallerton

Tax increases

I JUST arrived back from holiday to be welcomed by my 2019 (Band D) council tax bill on the front door mat. Eventually I got round to looking at it and as usual just looked at the overall per cent increase, 5.5 per cent. On the bill there is a column showing per cent change (they really mean per cent increase) versus 2018.

Then something caught my eye, adult social care had increased from £68.67 in 2018 to £93.64 in 2019 and was showing a two per cent movement, sorry increase. Even to my old eyes this was more than two per cent.

Reaching for the calculator I checked it twice and sure enough it was a bit more. It was in fact a 36.4 per cent increase. So I checked them all and the rest worked out close enough.

Only North Yorkshire County Council, who are communicating a three per cent basic increase and a two per cent adult care increase to the electorate, but if you add them both together to give the real NYCC total the increase is 4.9 per cent year on year.

Now at worst this is a deliberate attempt to hide the real increase or at best it is a mistake that should never happen.

Ken Parkinson, Hunton

Council demands

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.

Disgracefully they also voted themselves an increase in their personal allowances shortly after last year’s five per cent tax hike. 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, Aldfield

Fairy stories

HOW many fairy stories are the public expected to swallow from Hambleton District Council and its officers?

Following the cancellation, yet again, of a planning meeting to decide the fate of Newby Wiske Hall (D&S Times, March 22) the deputy chief executive, Mick Jewitt, tells the public and press: “We have listened to what local people have told us about not having had sufficient time to consider the documents and feel that the best way forward to ensure that the planning committee is able to make a sound decision is to delay this meeting."

How public spirited of Mr Jewitt for wishing to ensure fairness to the public.

The truth is that on March 13, 2019 HDC made a promise, in writing, that the officer’s report was being put on the council’s public access, but failed to publish the report as promised.

It was only displayed when the failure was brought to their attention on Monday, March 18, 2019, by then only three days before the meeting (and even dating it to appear that it had been web-posted four days earlier).

Even worse, on the same day, it was discovered that the council had withheld publication of an important letter dealing with heritage, which had been in their possession since December 21, a similar breach of the law as occurred in 2017 and which led to successful judicial review proceedings being taken against the council.

Non-publication of the documents is a clear breach of Section 100D of the Local Government (Access to Information) Act 1985 and it was for this reason that the council decided that they had no choice but to cancel, in the face of a challenge from solicitors not local people.

The decision had nothing to do with listening to local people or being fair to them, the council knew that to go ahead with the meeting would simply lead them back into a further judicial review that they could not win.

David Stockport, Newby Wiske

Not unloved

AN article refers to Richmond based Staley Stoneworks scooping two Master Builder awards (D&S Times, Mar 15), however some things in that article were not correct, being written by someone who knew nothing of the history of Station House at Wensley Station.

The article refers to the station as being unused, unloved and out of place with its surroundings. May we beg to differ. Until the house was sold to the present owner, it had been our much-loved family home for the last 51 years.

It is now no longer a family home but a five star holiday let with airport-style lighting up the drive, white picket fencing as far as you can see, complete with hot tub and twinkling fairy lights. Not really in keeping with the area as suggested by the article.

John and Doreen Moore, Romanby


FOLLOWING Ineos's sponsorship less than a year ago of the seemingly innocuous daily mile initiative for primary schools, the plastics and fracking giant is succeeding in its take-over of cycling's Team Sky. Ironically this will be launched at the Tour de Yorkshire in a county greatly at risk of fracking and where the industry is hotly contending the protective clauses of the Minerals and Waste plan.

Unless we are alive to this Ineos will have succeeded in its cynical bid to detoxify its brand by creating an acceptance of its everyday presence amongst us, and similarly, by that same subconscious process, forging a link between healthy pursuits such as running and cycling on the one hand and on the other that industry which ignores the deleterious effects of fracking on health and well-being. Does anyone doubt this link between so-called philanthropy and self interest? Be aware.

David Cragg-James, Stonegrave

Hospital smokers

SMOKERS outside hospital entrances – visitors, patients on drips, pregnant women – just light up with disregard to others.

If we have to pay to park in hospital grounds, pre-known or as an emergency, given hospitals have security persons, why can't smokers be fined quite substantially?

They are just making a mockery of the health service. How would they feel if treatment would be rejected due to commitment to smoking knowing the possible results? I am an ex-smoker.

P A Jackson, Richmond

Have respect

I HAVE just read about the smoking ban at The James Cook and The Friarage hospitals.

I do hope they have more success than the Memorial Hospital in Darlington. I have witnessed patients smoking near the main entrance attached to drips they have dragged from the wards, pregnant women sitting on a bench near the entrance to the women's centre and visitors lighting up while they are waiting for transport.

They smoke while standing on writing that tells them not to smoke in hospital grounds.

There are beautiful flower tubs created by a lovely lady and all her hard work is being used as ashtrays.

Come on, people, have some respect for yourselves and other hospital visitors that have to walk through the lingering smoke and the horrible smell it leaves.

Margaret Stabler, Darlington

Market plans

THE plans for a new Market Place in Darlington look very exciting and something to look forward to, now that a lot of shops are closing down.

The town needs to attract people from outside of the town like it has in the past. After all it was always classed as a market town. Also, with exciting venues like the library, Hippodrome and Hullabaloo we do have both learning and entertainment to entice people into the town.

There are plenty of restaurants, and wine bars to choose from. The only criticism I have is there is nothing in town for the teenagers in comparison to what we had in the 1970s.

Dance halls with no liquor but a cloakroom to hang your coats. A bowling alley, a skating rink, youth clubs, even boats on the lake. Even friendly policemen who would clip a lad’s ear whilst telling him to behave

We were taught discipline in those days, first at home, then at school, to prepare us for the future.

We had to show respect for our neighbours to build up trust and went to church and Sunday school and that was before you had to work from 14 years.

Then came the war years. We knew hardships but so very different to what the younger generation call it.

They want the vote at 16 but what do they know of life.

We got fountain pens for birthdays or Christmas gifts. Pocket money had to be earned, usually in pennies. I hope that young people are taught about the war years and the many recent disasters in poor countries because that is real poverty.

So yes, Darlington Council, anything that enhances our beautiful old buildings and history will get a grateful thanks from me – also thanks must go to Chris Lloyd for keeping it all alive in Echo Memories each week.

After all you have put the council tax up so it would be nice to have something to show for it, so thank you.

Mavis River-Horton, Darlington