Vital role

I HAVE great sympathy with the views expressed by Dr Richard Hiles (D&S Times, Nov 17) regarding the sale of the former Lambert Hospital.

Community hospitals in rural areas have a vital role to play in a number of respects. Hospitals such as the Lambert have given respite care and provided recuperation making a patient safe to return home following an operation or a fall, as well palliative care.

Staff shortages were quoted as the reason for a " temporary closure " of the Lambert Hospital. Within a short period of time, this closure became permanent.

From my experience over the years I spent as MP for Thirsk and now in the House of Lords, as well as working with dispensing doctors, there is an impression that hospital trusts and the Department of Health are failing in the provision of healthcare in rural areas.

The decision not to convert the hospital site in Thirsk into a health centre illustrates that point perfectly. Medical care should be provided free at the point of delivery and in my view, the delivery should be provided as close to the patient as possible.

Yet health provision currently is being focussed on patients travelling longer and longer distances for treatment and for their families to visit them. If more resources were spent on primary health care in Thirsk, there would be fewer referrals to hospitals so everyone would benefit: doctors and patients and a better use would be made of limited resources.

Rather than being surplus to NHS requirements, as the CCG concluded, the site of the Lambert Hospital could provide a local hub for delivering health care in Thirsk.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering and the Vale of York

Amazing staff

I WRITE in full support of Councillor John Blackie and others who plead for the maintenance of health services at the Friarage and Darlington hospitals (D&S Times, Nov 17).

I spent one day in the Friarage last week for a routine day surgery procedure. Every part of the day and staff throughout were excellent. All six operating theatres were in use.

Conversely my wife suffered a bad ankle fracture last year which required surgery. I took her to the Friarage but was told sorry you will have to go to James Cook. She was admitted and eventually after surgery being cancelled three times and occupying a bed for seven days she was allowed home.

Other ladies were in the same ward after falls resulting in broken hips and limbs were also waiting in agony for days and blocking more beds. The pain and emotional strains were far longer than should have been.

Again the staff were amazing but working in a system and hospital that is already overwhelmed. It is ludicrous to be even considering moving more services to James Cook.

Ironically my wife had some of her excellent follow up physiotherapy treatment at the Lambert Hospital at Thirsk which now we hear is gone forever.

Brian Oliver, Thirsk

Resigned air

REGARDING the Friarage Hospital public engagement meeting at Catterick Leisure Centre on November 6.

It appeared that a crisis of staffing has been allowed to develop and we were supplied with a shopping list of websites and recruitment agencies that have been unsuccessfully used in the hope of recruiting staff to key posts. It appeared that now that the Friarage is no longer allowed to use trainee anaesthetists the core functions of our local hospital are threatened.

We were shocked that there appeared to be an acceptance by the leadership in the hospital that all that could be done to address these issues had already been done. The air of defeat and resignation, on the part of the hospital leaders, hung in the air.

As an outcome of this mindset leaders are now accepting that the next step should be to go to consultation about modifications (closures) to the services offered at the Friarage. The repeated statement from Dr Dunbar, that key services of the Friarage would not be safe and that he would not lead a hospital that provided unsafe services, typified this. What, one wonders, could be more unsafe than no essential services in your local hospital or perhaps no hospital at all?

It is almost certain that the outcome of the engagement meetings will be to give the existing management of the Friarage a mandate to take action to reduce further the services available there. It seems all too obvious to us that the structure of the engagement meetings, that were so very carefully managed, asked only questions that were likely to support such an outcome. The next predictable stage will be for there to be formal consultations based upon the outcome of the engagement meetings. There is, apparently, no plan to publicly share the data/ evidence collected in the “engagement” meetings. One wonders why.

Mike and Joy Vening, Richmond

Big mistake

HEALTH officials made a huge mistake by proposing to sell the Lambert Hospital in Thirsk.

This is an obvious site for a central health care provision including car parking.

I totally agree with Dr Garside’s letter (D&S Times, Nov 10) and hope that this will motivate politicians and the public to change this policy.

Judith Beattie, Cowesby

Marginal vote?

SINCE the referendum I have become bemused over claims made in these columns that the gap in favour of Brexit was marginal. For example someone claimed that the margin was insignificant, another said it was 50-50, another that the difference was very narrow. One person even claimed that “It seems quite possible that there was never a majority for Brexit in the population as a whole.”

Forgive me but this is all starting to sound like claims made by sad souls in the 20th-century that the Holocaust never actually happened.

I have, as a consequence, conducted a small experiment to give readers a feeling of just how large the vote for Brexit really was. I worked out how long it would take to count the margin of 1,269,501 in favour of leaving the EU at a rate of one vote per second (60 per minute).

The answer, you may be surprised to know, is that not only would you be sitting down with next week's copy of the D&S Times but you would also have the following week's issue to hand. At the above rate it would take around 14 days and 16 hours to count every vote.

In truth the vote was decisive by a gulf that would make any political party on the planet go ballistic with euphoria.


J Smith, Brompton on Swale

No traitor

I HOLD no particular brief for Edward Heath - after all 'twas he who presided over what the late Colonel Peter Consett perhaps not inaccurately used to term “the disorganisation of local government.” But really: arch-traitor? (D&S Times, Nov 17).

To the best of my knowledge Heath served this country honourably and well during World WarTwo as an officer of the Royal Artillery and was mentioned in dispatches. Moreover I believe that his views on Europe were shaped by his experiences both immediately before the war, when he travelled there extensively, and afterwards, whilst serving in occupied Germany.

I fear also that your correspondent's observation about the “illegal”' use of the Royal Prerogative may not be completely accurate.

According to Hansard the entry to the EEC was fully debated in Parliament over the course of six days and a vote taken on October 28, 1971. Heath was supported by 70 Labour MPs who rebelled against their whip. Another 20 Labour members abstained whilst 33 Conservatives voted against, along with the rest of Labour. The pro EEC majority was 112 (356:244).

Michael Armstrong, Thirsk

Not at war

WE are fortunate to live in a parliamentary democracy, which although it is far from perfect, ensures there is freedom of expression and allows us to change our minds and our elected representatives. However, Mr Nicholson (D&S Times, Nov 17) suggests that politicians are “arrogant and out of touch” and that “the proletariat” should therefore make important political decisions through a series of referendums. This seems a rather undemocratic idea since “the proletariat” form only a part of the population as a whole. Do the rest of the population not get a say?

In the same edition, Ruth Robinson, like Trevor Nicholson, uses aggressive and insulting language to describe anyone, past or present who supports EU membership. Ted Heath is described as an “arch traitor”, EU negotiators put “the heel of the jackboot on our throats.” It seems that raw and rather ugly emotions drive the arguments of avid Leavers rather than anything remotely rational. We are not at war, but there are some Leavers who seem to think we are.

This government has interpreted the very narrow results of a purely advisory referendum as a mandate to stifle debate and subvert parliamentary power. Fortunately, there are a majority of MPs, including many Conservatives, who are prepared to question the Government’s approach. However, Mrs May’s government also fails to recognise that leaving the EU is not a negotiation, it is a process. The process is set out in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which this country freely signed up to. We cannot set the agenda for withdrawal and anyone who suggests otherwise is kidding themselves. The status of EU citizens living in the UK, arrangements for a free and open border between the Republic and the north of Ireland and the vexed question of the divorce bill itself need to be agreed by the UK and the other 27 sovereign states of the EU before there can be any discussion about trade arrangements.

No doubt there will be some Leavers who consider saying the above to be nothing short of treason. I do not doubt the sincerity of those who argued that we should leave the EU, but by the same token, Leavers should stop throwing insults at those of us who still believe this country is making the biggest mistake in living memory. It is not too late to put a stop to this madness and remain as closely aligned as possible to the EU, either by staying in the single market, or better still, by staying in the EU itself.

Dr Andrew Newens, Darlington

Brexit bill

TWO excellent letters in last week`s D&S Times, from Ruth Robinson and Trevor Nicholson, summed up exactly my attitude to Brexit.

I would add just one further comment. What we absolutely do not need is the totally unnecessary two-year extension to our EU membership (euphemistically titled transition or implementation period) agreed by Mrs May presumably to pacify the Remoaners in her party.

I just can`t understand why these latter are so happy for us to pay a further £20 billion to an organisation which we have been subsidising for decades, when after reimbursing businesses to whom tariffs are applied we could put the rest into our crumbling NHS before it is lost for good.

We should pay what we are legally bound and not a penny more unless it is in our interest. The EU is starting to panic now setting arbitrary time limits. We must get out as soon as possible. I was willing to give Mrs May a chance but it seems she just isn`t up to the job and someone with backbone is needed.

For those who describe Brexit as a divorce anyone who`s been through one of those knows that by far the best result for all concerned is a clean break.

Denis McAllister, Leyburn

Disastrous move

I HAVE found on the website of the inspectorate of constabularies that in 2017 the Durham force was declared “outstanding” at “keeping people safe and reducing crime” and that the Cleveland force was “good” but that the North Yorkshire force “requires improvement.” As a former senior officer in the North Yorkshire force at a time when it was held in high regard I find this very sad.

The Police and Crime Commissioner has often assured us that North Yorkshire is the best in the country for low crime but now we know the truth. Independent inspection has shown that she, and the chief constable she appointed, could do better.

Although I am not one of those who live in the area of Northallerton now blighted by cars parked by police staff (D&S Times, Nov 17) I drive along the roads concerned frequently and therefore I am one of those who is suffering the consequences of the PCC’s determination to move out of Newby Wiske Hall even if it meant moving to a building with inadequate parking.

You report that a spokeswoman said “agile working” had been introduced allowing staff to work from home as if that had been a response to the complaints of parking chaos. This was misleading for it is common knowledge in Northallerton that it was introduced, and lap tops were bought for staff presumably at considerable expense, because there is not enough room in the new headquarters for all the staff. Indeed, there is not enough room even after staff have been working at home. Yet in the full knowledge of this the PCC closed Northallerton police station and moved yet more staff to the already inadequate building.

You say you understand the PCC is in discussions with Hambleton council regarding long-term solutions. Perhaps she should have had the sense to hold these discussions before her precipitous and disastrous decision to move from Newby Wiske.

D David Severs, Northallerton

Bonfire parking

I HAVE seen the report relating to the bonfire and parking in Northallerton (D&S Times, Nov 10). In my opinion, it is ridiculous that Scarborough Council have sent two wardens out knowing there would be cars parked in places that would not normally be parked. They have done this on a revenue basis only not for safety reasons.

The fire, police and councils are urging the public to reduce the number of small displays of fireworks happening at home by attending the organised displays such as this one in Northallerton. There are no longer many free events like this one happened to be. The council knew this would be a cash cow as normally on a Sunday night, two wardens would not be present in the area.

I would like to know if the council is prepared to inform us of how much these wardens were paid as they would not do this for free. Furthermore, I would like to know how much they profited by doing these also.

Years ago, there was an organised display for firework night in Darlington; however, this was stopped due to funding issues. Why does Scarborough council want to prevent towns like Northallerton providing the community and surrounding areas with a safe organised display of fireworks? I strongly believe those who were issued parking tickets on the night should join in force and approach the council for them to be revoked.

Scarborough council is bringing events like this to an end whilst taking money for no work being done for it. They have shut things down in Scarborough, so they do not want anywhere else to provide entertainment. Parking wardens have badly affected a lot of towns eg Bishop Auckland.

Neil Simpson, St Helen’s Auckland

Festive shopping

WITH the festive season now fast approaching, I’m sure thoughts are turning to Christmas shopping and get-togethers with friends and family.

I’d like to take this opportunity to invite the people of Hambleton and Richmondshire to visit us in Darlington over the festive period.

We’re just a few short miles away and we’ve got a great range of shops, from the national chains to quirky independent retailers – everything you need to tick off that list.

And we’re also the place to be to celebrate some Christmas cheer; we’ve got bars and restaurants that will cater for every taste.

To help you along, we’ve got some great parking offers this Christmas. We’re offering three hours for the price of two in all of our short stay car parks every day until January 2. Or come to East Street car park, in the heart of the town centre, for just £2 for the whole day.

We’d love to welcome you to Darlington this Christmas.

Cllr Chris McEwan, Darlington Borough Council

High spot

SARAH Walker is mistaken when she asserts that the Lion Inn on Blakey Ridge is situated at the highest point in the North York Moors National Park (D&S Times, Nov 17). It is not.

Whilst that excellent hostelry at 1,325 feet above sea level is the highest inn in the area, it is not located at the highest point. The distinction belongs to 1,490 feet high Round Hill several miles away on Urra Moor. Incidentally, Danby High Moor, Cringle Moor and Carlton Bank are also ranked higher.

John Woolway, Darlington

Prison plan

GIVEN the amount of house building in Northallerton, reports of parking issues through displaced police staff, controversial parking penalties and the number of empty shops - wouldn't it have made more sense for the whole prison site to have been turned in to a car park?

Alan Graham, Finghall