Sincere thanks

ALL too often we complain, but I would like to take time to applaud the manager and trustees of the Forum in Northallerton.

In recent times they have shown bi-monthly relaxed cinema viewings. These films are viewed in a relaxed, friendly environment where the lighting is not so low and includes a comfort break interval.

Whilst the films are open to all, they are particularly welcomed by residents of the local community who may find normal viewings problematic.

The films shown have brought back many happy memories or, for such as myself, provided a first opportunity to see these marvellous classics.

It is such activity that keeps the Forum in our hearts as a true community facility and will no doubt help to retain a loyal clientele when the new cinema opens at the Treadmill.

Once again, my sincere thanks to all concerned for providing such a worthwhile service to the area.

Lynda Metcalfe, Northallerton

Friarage changes

I MOVED to this area a year ago from the south of England and one of the things that attracted me to this part of Yorkshire – apart from family nearby – was the availability of good local health services.

I managed to get registered with my nearest GP practice which I have found to be excellent. I can always get an appointment with a day or two of calling – sometimes even that same day.

But I have been concerned about the reports I have seen about the Friarage. Happily, I have not so far needed its services but I have heard many good things about it so it was worrying to hear that some services were under threat.

While I found the leaflet that came through my door about the changes rather confusing, I was reassured by hearing the doctors at the public meeting in Northallerton. What they said made sense – even though I don't know much about health service jargon.

Can I also speak up for our MP who seems to have devoted a huge amount of thought and energy to the issue and especially for organising the meeting.

Where I come from the local MP (also a Conservative) was almost invisible. I know we are pretty fed up with our politicians at the moment but Rishi Sunak seems to be making sure the matter is properly debated, the right questions are asked and the hospital's actions properly examined.

K Ashby, Appleton Wiske


IT is disappointing to read elements of the letters from John Harris and Mervyn Wilmington (D&S Times, March 22) which both suggest to a lesser or greater extent that the solution to the Friarage Hospital issue is to throw money at it.

The public meeting underlined once and for all the fact that money is not the thing that is keeping anaesthetists from working at the hospital.

As my grandson explained to me and I related in my letter two weeks ago (D&S Times, March 15) the reasons are professional and about career advancement, not cash.

Dr James Dunbar made a related comment at the meeting in Northallerton. What motivates him and his fellow doctors is their ability to provide the best service to their patients – and they don't feel they can do that at the Friarage because it is so small.

As the doctors said at the meeting there is a national shortage of anaesthetists. As it takes 13 to 15 years to train an anaesthetist to consultant level, the question as to why we haven't got enough of them now would have to aimed at a previous pre-2010 Labour administration.

Edward Harden, Catterick Garrison


AT the public meeting on the future of the Friarage Hospital, we were informed that our ITU would be closing on March 27.

This is because the management could not get critical care anaesthetists to work there, and there was an acute shortage of anaesthetists nationwide.

Allerton Ward is also moving to James Cook Hospital because patients undergoing colorectal surgery are considered high risk and need an ITU on site should it be needed urgently.

Whilst it is true there is a shortage of anaesthetists, I understand that there are over 100 working at James Cook Hospital, and whilst some specialise in cardiothoracic, paediatric surgery, etc, there are 52 weeks in the year, so why are the rest not prepared to work half or even one week a year covering our hospital. Is this really too much to ask?

The contracts of all staff should be with South Tees NHS Trust which includes the Friarage.

The hospital management seem reluctant to insist anaesthetists at James Cook cover the Friarage (which after all is part of their contract), because they are frightened they may then leave the area altogether and seek work elsewhere because there is such a demand nationwide. Well, I say that any doctor who refuses to help out should not be considered for any bonus pay awards.

We are told the ITU needs anaesthetists trained in critical care medicine, but the ITU at the Friarage has run efficiently for many years now under the supervision of the general anaesthetists working there, the most important issue is having ITU trained nursing staff which we have.

Taking this away from us will discourage newly qualified consultants from applying to work here.

All these decisions, including closing the Allerton Ward, are said to be temporary, but we all know this really means permanent. Once closed, nursing staff will move on and if such a time came to reopen the ward, the trust will have the excuse they can’t because they don’t have enough nurses.

It is worth noting that when the NHS was established Darlington Memorial Hospital and the Friarage Hospital were under one authority, with consultants appointed to work in both places. This failed because in practice most consultants concentrated their efforts in Darlington. For this reason, the Friarage separated from Darlington, and the Northallerton Health Trust was formed in the 1980s.

The Friarage Hospital continued to provide an excellent service to the public, was well thought of, a happy place to work, had no problem in attracting doctors and remained without debt, until it was made to join up with James Cook Hospital by the Department of Health in 2002.

We then inherited their debt, and history was repeating itself as concentration became focused more on provision at James Cook Hospital.

I fear closure of the ITU will set a precedent and a template for closure of other wards and departments if and when staff cannot be recruited, resulting in a basic, cottage style hospital.

S Windridge, Brompton

Job vacancies

THE level of public concern about the closure of accident and emergency care at the Friarage Hospital was clearly shown by numbers of people at the public meeting.

The reason for the reduction in cover was again given as a shortage of applications for key staff positions including consultant anaesthetists. While it is not surprising that few would wish to apply for a job at a hospital being downgraded it was also mentioned that there were vacancies at the James Cook hospital.

This shortage of consultants applying for jobs in our health service is not new, it has been going on for years. If the Conservative Government has made an effort to address this problem then I don’t remember our MP, Mr Sunak, mentioning it at the meeting.

It is time the government took responsibility for the shortage, instead of sitting back and relying on market forces, an approach that has clearly not worked.

The other key problem that I felt the meeting did not address was the effect on the ambulance service. Longer journey times mean that fewer ambulances will be available for new emergencies. The South Tees Trust could help with that problem by ensuring the minimum possible waiting time for admission at James Cook and no queue of ambulances waiting outside. Let’s have a public statement from the Trust about that.

John Harris, Richmond

Road layout

THERE is a serious footnote to the ridiculous new road layout which has opened at Brompton (D&S Times. March 22). If a private developer had proposed that layout they would have be turned down flat but because it is a council plan it seems nothing matters about health and safety.

If you are coming from Brompton or Darlington you now have to go twice as far on a town run and three times as far if you are going to the council offices or leisure centre.

The three or four more depressions on your accelerator pedal and extra mileage must mean that there is at least three times more fumes and gasses being pumped in to that small area. How bad is that for local householders?

This, along with ridiculous junction at the end of the Brompton section, is a disgrace. I have already nearly been cleaned up twice already with cars cutting the corner.

It is an accident waiting to happen.

Name and address supplied


THROUGH your pages may I publicise the 60th anniversary of 2337 (Northallerton) Squadron ATC.

The cadet squadron was formed in July 1959 and had paraded in various locations across the town. Currently based at the Drill Hall on Thirsk Road and parading Wednesday and Friday evenings, the squadron is keen to celebrate its past successes and history by inviting anyone associated with the squadron in the past to make contact with their stories, pictures and memories.

Past cadets, staff and committee members I am sure can recall events and achievements and who went on to do what after being a cadet. We are also keen to put names to faces in many of the older pictures of camps and events and meet former squadron members.

To that end there will be a coffee morning in the Town Hall on July 13, for all to reminisce about camps, visits meet and chat. There will also be a celebratory dinner in September. Anyone with information or who wishes further information on the Squadron dinner please email in the first instance to make contact.

There have been many many hundreds of air cadets in Northallerton since 1959, some of whom I hope would like both celebrate and add to the squadron's history.

David Mollard, chair, Squadron Civilian Committee

Stepping in

"WHERE there is evidence of speeding that leads to accidents the county council steps in" said North Yorkshire County Council's leader Carl Les (D&S Times, March 29).

Isn't that reassuring. The people of North Yorkshire have to be maimed or killed before our elected leaders will actually listen to what local people who live in the villages know already and have been trying to tell them, but to no avail.

Rodney Wildsmith, Great Ayton

Village speeds

FURTHER to reports about speeding through villages, we have a Community Speedwatch team who work in conjunction with North Yorkshire Police and I thought your readers would like some real facts.

Last week we had 169 vehicles in one hour (Thursday) and 333 vehicles in two hours (Friday) passing our checkpoint. Of these, eight on Thursday and five on Friday committed an offence by exceeding 34mph and one was travelling at 60mph into the village.

These offenders will be followed up by North Yorkshire Police.

It is interesting to note that there were only six vehicles who were travelling at less than 30mph within the 30mph limit area.

The Parish Council is planning to introduce matrix speed boards as soon as possible.

Judith Stansfield, Melsonby Speedwatch

Indicative votes

AFTER the indicative votes that were held the the House of Commons on the evening of Wednesday, March 27, I looked at how my MP, Rishi Sunak voted. I was horrified to find that that he had voted against all options except Leave with no-deal and contingent preferential arrangements which was (I think) essentially no-deal but with a negotiating period tacked on.

A week or so ago I watched the CBI and the TUC leaders in the Channel 4 news studio in total agreement (imagine that!!) that the UK was facing a national disaster in the event of a no-deal Brexit, particularly on jobs and people's lives.

It would also be a disaster for farming. The NFU has just said that: “A no-deal exit from the EU would be disastrous for British Farming and food production and should be avoided at all costs.”

I was at the People's Vote March in London on Saturday, March 23 where more than one million people from all over the UK converged in support of a confirmatory referendum.

The Revoke Article 50 petition is currently signed by just short of six million and this includes nine per cent of the Richmond (Yorkshire) electorate, 7,268 people. Why is he, along with the government, not listening?

This constituency is predominantly agricultural and has small businesses, so is our MP acting in the best interests of the people he represents? And is he representing the will of the people now? Because three years after the narrow majority to leave EU in the 2016 referendum, people are wiser and deserve a confirmatory vote.

Why then is Rishi Sunak voting for a no-deal? Does he not care what happens in the North-East and his constituency which relies heavily on manufacturing and agriculture? What was he thinking? I do hope he will take the opportunity to explain the stance he has taken.

Ian Hobson, Scruton

Closing gaps

IT is good that the Highways Agency has decided to close a lot if not all of those gaps through the centre of the A19 (D&S Times, March 15).There are too many people dodging through the middle, performing u-turns.

The farmers won't like it,but to be fair they cause some of the accidents, as do people who drift through the gap into traffic on the opposite carriageway.

The next thing they need to do is widen farm entrances which go directly off the A19, so that the drivers of big lorries making deliveries to farms can turn in more safely.

Colin Taylor, Northallerton