Hospital saviour

THE news that proposals to close wards at Bishop Auckland General Hospital have been dropped is good news for the community, however it came about ‘U-turn on hospital wards shake-up’ (D&S Times, Feb 7).

That said, I think the town’s MP, Dehenna Davison, claims just a little too much credit for the decision.

She says that she has “been campaigning hard,” she thanks the Prime Minister and Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, “for taking such quick action on this matter” and Mr Hancock in turn praises her “immense campaigning”.

Given the length of time that such issues usually take to resolve, and that Ms Davison has been in her job for less than two months, she must have been working very hard indeed.

Or might the decision have less to do with her efforts than with the fact that she, and the other two individuals, all share the same political colour?

And should not some credit be given to the former MP, Helen Goodman, who campaigned tirelessly to prevent erosion of services at the hospital but who, unfortunately perhaps, was not of the current political colour.

But then, politics is a rough old game. “To the victor go the spoils” indeed.

Robin Brooks, Barningham, Richmond


I AM, not for the first time this year, bewildered.

Boris Johnson announces that, from 2032, all petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles will be banned from our roads.

Fine, but he makes no reference as to how we are to generate the electricity needed to meet the vastly increased demand. Tidal barriers? Geo-thermal units? Solar panels? Or new gas/coal-fired power stations?

I cannot help but think that there is a lack of joined up thinking behind this brave/brash statement.

Daphne Clarke, Richmond

Backwards service

IT was reassuring to hear from the Leyburn couple about the immediate and excellent care they received at the Friarage last week "in the wee small hours" (D&S Times, Feb 7).

Like them, and round about the same time, we too found ourselves having to ring 111 towards midnight from the Leyburn area for advice.

In our case we were told that we could only go to the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.

Thus it was we drove to Teesside in the middle of the night. On arrival at 12.30am we found a full waiting room of people in various states of distress packed in rows of seats separated from staff by glass screens, with police officers coming and going regularly.

We were told that that there would be a wait of at least five hours, but some people told us they'd been there since 2pm the previous day.

We couldn't say whether the scenario we met was typical or whether we were just there at the wrong time. However it was plain that the hospital was not coping.

After an hour we gave up and went home, a dire experience and a long worthless journey.

The issue was an ophthalmology one and the following day we went to the optician in Leyburn where we thankfully received immediate and excellent care.

It's hard to reconcile whether the NHS service in Northallerton and Middlesbrough are one and the same.

Some will remember when we had full A&E facilities at Catterick Garrison with a brand new hospital which doubtlessly we took for granted.

Since then there have been tremendous advances in medicine and treatment, but it seems like their provision has gone backwards.

Alan Graham, Finghall, Leyburn

Thriving democracy

I ENJOYED the February meeting of the Hawes and High Abbotside Parish Council because it was so refreshing to see how decision-making can be devolved at a local level.

It is encouraging to see how many residents regularly attend Hawes and High Abbotside Parish Council meetings and how they can so easily participate in the discussions.

The debate about where to place the memorial to John Blackie (D&S Times, Feb 7) was often animated and the decision accepted by the parish councillors was put forward by some of the residents.

It is not easy for the chairman or the clerk to run meetings like that and hats off to them and all the councillors for being brave enough to do so.

It’s great to see local democracy thriving in Upper Wensleydale which is a memorial in itself to John Blackie.

Pip Pointon, Aysgarth

Affordable housing

YOUR story "affordable homes plan uncertainty" (D&S Times, Feb 7) is one that is being played out across the country, as the major housing developers pocket record receipts on the back of such ill-advised Government wheezes such as Help to Buy.

This has helped prop up the record profits of the big builders, including Persimmon, enabling multi-million pay outs to their senior executives.

It beggars belief that Persimmon, of all companies, is pleading poverty and an inability to meet its obligations with regard to affordable housing.

Is this the same Persimmon which made over £1bn profit, according to its latest results, as reported last year? The same Persimmon that made multi-million pay outs to its senior executives?

It has been clear for some time that if local councils want low cost or affordable housing built in their areas, then they will have to do it themselves.

This will involve some creative thinking to get around the various obstacles imposed by Governments past and present, including that other ill-advised policy Right to Buy which has seen council housing shrink to almost nothing.

A number of councils have set up housing development companies to get around the limitations enforced by Whitehall.

Maybe there will be an opportunity for Hambleton to pursue this option, once it has completed the Treadmills scheme in Northallerton? But don't hold your breath – Hambleton sold off its housing stock many years ago, and despite all the hand-wringing on the housing issue, I doubt whether it wants to involve itself in the property management business.

Tony Robinson, Northallerton

Hospital link

DAVID SIMPSON (D&S Times, Feb 7) was right to question Brian Rawling’s over-optimistic view of train travel between Northallerton and James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.

There is indeed an hourly service and the outward journey usually takes around 55 minutes including one change, but then there’s a 400m walk from James Cook station to the hospital’s south entrance.

So even to get to a 9am outpatients appointment you have to be at Northallerton station for the train at 7.05am. On top of this, the bad performance of both the TransPennine Express and Northern rail franchises, with numerous delays and cancellations, has turned the journey into a lottery. And the fare, even with a railcard, is £11.50 return, not “under £9” as Mr Rawlings suggests, though you can save £1.45 by split ticketing.

Mr Rawlings was also clearly not aware that the Abbotts bus service to Middlesbrough was axed on November 26, 2018. It’s still theoretically possible to reach the hospital by bus by changing at Stokesley, but it takes a minimum of two hours.

Calls for the re-instatement of a direct bus link are fully justified. But responsibility for providing adequate public transport rests with the local authority, not with an NHS organisation.

At a time when revitalising bus services is becoming part of the national public transport agenda, North Yorkshire County Council should be challenged to meet this particular need.

Peter Harbord, Northallerton

Hospital shuttle

THOSE who have been making the case for bringing back the shuttle bus between the Friarage Hospital and the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough should remember a few points about why it was discontinued in the first place.

It was designed for patients but by and large they didn't use it. The only shuttle services that were ever busy were the ones at the beginning and end of the working day which James Cook staff living in Northallerton used to get to and from work.

The Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group, which was paying for the service, correctly identified that providing this was a poor use of public money.

Also I can imagine that employees of the South Tees Hospitals Trust who didn't live in Northallerton thought it unfair that a small group of the trust's employees were enjoying a free travel to work service and they didn't.

I agree that a case can be made for bringing back some form of direct transport service between the two hospitals but if the powers that be do so they must ensure that it primarily benefits patients, is well publicised, and does not make unviable the existing, albeit limited, commercial service between Northallerton and Middlesbrough which your correspondent Brian Rawling (D&S Times, Jan 31) correctly pointed out calls at the James Cook Hospital anyway.

Indeed there might be a more cost-effective case for subsidising that existing service – so it was more frequent – than reinstating the shuttle bus,

Jane Saunders, Romanby, Northallerton


I FIND it hard to believe that the people who rally under the banner of the Save the Friarage Hospital are continuing with legal action over the recent consultation exercise on the future of the hospital's new urgent treatment centre.

I can only think they are being led by the nose by a firm of solicitors whose only motivation is raking in Legal Aid money which, in case anyone needed reminding, comes from us the taxpayer.

We should not forget also that the hospital has to spend more money itself on defending any further legal action. That's money that should be spent on patient care.

This ill-advised legal action is over whether an option to re-instate the A&E department should have been included in the consultation.

As the two senior Friarage doctors – Mr Clements and Mr Dunbar – explained to me at one of the meetings held during the consultation, reinstatement could not be an option because they knew they could not deliver an A&E service safely because of a shortage of the anaesthetists and critical care doctors.

Forcing those doctors employed at James Cook down to Northallerton, which I am told was tried, just makes problems at James Cook worse and because there were not in any case large numbers needing an A&E service at Northallerton it was not a good use of their hours.

The Save the Friarage group's position – backed-up by lawyers – is only credible if we all believe that the doctors I've mentioned are lying through their teeth to us.

I really don't think they are. Having met them and spoken to them they strike me as highly professional, proud of what they do and very caring about the people served by the Friarage Hospital. We should trust them and their judgement

Sadly, I think the Save the Friarage group, has completely lost its way and is trying to save face – funded by the taxpayer.

Bethany Morris, Stokesley

Charity changes

I AM writing about the changes to Yorkshire Cancer Research charity shop in Northallerton.

I have been a customer almost from the time it opened in a single room near Mr Lee’s optician premises and Mrs Lee was a co-founder.

I understand there has to be a paid manager now which I think is all wrong. It seems all charity shops have one.

Yorkshire Cancer Research Charity Shop has been run by volunteers, even the Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer would never take payment, not even for making phone calls or for postage stamps – and that’s how it should be, they are charity shops where all should be volunteers.

I have been told that there are at least three long term volunteers who have put in a lot of years, one lady has done 31 years, another 30 years and another 28 years.

I do hope the powers that be at Harrogate will give these ladies the recognition they deserve.

The shop certainly needed to be refurbished and does look good now and I wish it all the best for the future.

F Walker, Northallerton

Brownfield sites

DARLINGTON council leader Heather Scott says building on brownfield sites is too expensive. Too expensive for who, exactly?

If developers can pay multi-million pound bonuses, they can afford to do the decent thing and build on brownfield sites. Too expensive? Someone is paying the price here, and is not the developers.

Our councillors should stand up for us, the existing residents, whose lives will be degraded. The thousands of new residents who buy into these green field schemes will search hopelessly for a doctor, a dentist, a school place and everything else that makes living in a community worthwhile, and that's before we mention the traffic.

Time to just say thanks, but no thanks.

Alexandra Bailey, Darlington

Debate rejection

DEAR Jacob Young MP. I am pleased your request to debate “the excellence of Yorkshire cycling” was turned down by the Leader of the House.

Debating this subject in Parliament time would have wasted valuable parliamentary time for purposeful MPs to debate more pressing and important issues.

Your request ignores any of the serious issues taking place daily in Redcar and Cleveland and makes a mockery of your role as an MP representing one of the most deprived areas in the UK.

The next opportunity you have to represent your constituents please ask for debates regarding the dangerous levels of underfunding in Redcar and Cleveland that seriously affects our capability to deliver support for mental health, isolation, depression, suicide, bereavement, child care, adoption, fostering, homelessness, disabilities, elderly care, education, mobility, victims of crime, refuge, domestic abuse, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, cessation programmes, carers, child carers, debt, health promotion, communities, waste collection, recycling, roads, transport, energy, jobs, apprenticeships, training, environment, economic growth and neighbourhoods.

The excellence of Yorkshire cycling can be debated locally through the appropriate and relevant bodies as well as a side issue to the wider debate over health and wellbeing, cycling lanes, access to rural areas, sport in general and future regional and national cycling events.

Cllr Carl Quartermain, leader of the Labour Group, Redcar & Cleveland

Flying the flag

THE controversial order requiring local authorities to fly the Union Jack in celebration of Prince Andrew’s 60th birthday will cause little angst at Redcar & Cleveland Council.

The reason for this is that, as true patriots, we fly our national flag all year round outside our council’s HQ, the Community Heart, at Redcar.

During a boring debate, the sight of the Union Jack, flying alongside the flag of our borough and the Yorkshire flag (which recently replaced the flag of the EU), both cheers and enlivens me.

In my opinion, our national flag represents, not only the supposed “goodies” and “baddies” of the Royal Family, but every citizen of the UK.

Steve Kay, Redcar and Cleveland councillor