Letters to the Editor, May 23, 2013


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UNAVAILABILITY of doctors out of hours, nurses being responsible for huge populations to give overnight medical advice, extensive use of the telephone for diagnosis and treatment, long delays in home visits by doctors and ambulances, even for the terminally ill, massive inducement payments at taxpayers’ expense. The list seems endless.

This lamentable deterioration in the delivery of out-of-hours primary care services has, not surprisingly, become national headline news, and most of the articles seem to blame the GPs.

This is unfair, especially here in Weston and Winscombe, where all local family doctors came together in 1994 to form Weston Primary Care, of which I was chairman.

We covered the whole catchment of patients via surgeries held in our primary care centre, based in Weston General Hospital (which we created, and leased from the hospital trust) and via home visiting, with a two-hour protocol to completion.

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We used a roster system involving all the local GPs and went to great lengths to predict busy periods (bank holidays, Christmas, Easter, etc) and ensured all staffing levels were increased, with reserves on standby.

We were entirely self-financing through GP contributions, out of their own pockets, in proportion to their list sizes, and we appointed only the very best of the reception and managerial staff from the 13 participating practices.

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It proved a tremendous success. The patients liked it and the quality of care was good. We met the 20 Carson quality standards of the day and the doctors were on-call much less frequently than previously – “like being born again” was a typical reaction.

We even worked collaboratively with A & E to deal with their inappropriate (after triage) primary care patients.

We never had need for the use of other than vocationally driven local GPs to fill the rosters, and, at times, we even had a waiting list for slots, and most of the sessions were unpaid.

Ten years later North Somerset PCT (Primary Care Trust) had been created and it was they who decided they wanted a country-wide service and in our place appointed Harmoni – the largest for-profit out-of-hours provider, private company, in the country, who employed doctors from all over southern England and sometimes from abroad.

Today Harmoni seems to be in the national news for all the wrong reasons – it is reported as being mentioned in coroners inquests and other enquiries on a regular basis.

With profit as the main motivation, the bottom line becomes predominant, and this sad and dangerous aspect of deteriorating health care was predictable and was predicted.

Let the blame be where it belongs: with the North Somerset PCT and the last Government which created them, and the new contract, not with the GPs.

Experienced doctors know above all that it’s one thing to make a decision and another to take responsibility for the outcome of that decision.

The latter should influence the former by concentrating the mind. If only it had been for those decision-making individuals in the PCT we might not all be in this pickle now.

Both the PCT and Harmoni are gone, thank God, but I doubt the damage done to the doctor/patient relationship will ever be resorted.


Queens Road, Weston


NOT for the first time Weston and its growing conurbation are faced with the mercenary machinations of the Bristol and Taunton Hospitals to expand their sphere of practice to cover a much wider area to the detriment of the population of Weston.

They will no doubt soon be assailing us with justification on bed utilisation and bed-blocking by senior citizens and a host of other reasons.

I am 78 years of age now and have first-hand experience of being hospitalised in Bristol.

I was isolated and separated from my wife and family and they were confronted by the additional costs of getting into Bristol and finding somewhere to park a car. Public transport was not a realistic option because of the time involved and its unreliable features.

I also remember vividly that when I arrived in Weston back in the 1970s I found myself in the middle of a battle royal to save the hospital.

At that time it was just a foundation stone in the middle of a field when the Regional authority based in Bristol aided and abetted by those in Taunton set out to stop the project to build a replacement general hospital in Weston and sell the land.

But for the tenacity and courage of the local area hospital committee ably and positively led by Councillor Ella Nicholls, with full cross-party support including staff, doctors and our then MP Jerry Wiggins, they fought long and hard devoting much time and effort to ensuring a continuing general hospital with A&E facilities remained in Weston.

The arguments they put forward then concerning the impracticalities, difficulties and dangers that would be involved for the people of Weston and its environs, many of whom were elderly or families with young children, are as valid today as they were then, in fact as the population has grown considerably since then the arguments have even more weight.

We do not have adequate ambulance facilities to make it reasonable to expect you will receive hospital care in an accident or emergency in Weston when every minute counts as to whether you live or die when it could mean reaching Weston General in 10 minutes or waiting for 30 or 40 minutes to reach the main general A & E in Bristol or Taunton.

Our current MP and chairman of the League of Friends sees it as only a business transaction stating the more comfortable option would be joining forces with another hospital but if a private company proves it can do the job better than anyone else then they should be given the chance. So clearly you know where he stands. Who needs a friend like that when your life is under threat?

Is there today an Ella Nicholls or the male equivalent who will come forward and join the Mercury in leading a fight to yet again save Weston General Hospital because that is what we are talking about and a fight it is going to take.

It is not about privatisation of the hospital as our MP seems to think, it is all about the fear of losing our general hospital and its A&E department.

I may need your help to preserve my life at some point in the future and the lives of countless others will be placed in jeopardy by these dangerous proposals.

Caring for the health of the elderly and the young is a primary aim of all NHS staff and doctors. Yes it does cost a lot of money but it is money well spent.

I wonder does anyone care anymore?


Addiscombe Road, Weston

Healthcare for all

I CAN just about remember the early days of the NHS which started in 1947. From only having private doctors and hospitals, which we could not afford, we suddenly had healthcare for all, but that was not totally a good idea.

I remember a comedian on the radio who summed it up. He spoke of two ladies who used to meet every Thursday in the NHS doctor’s surgery. One week one lady was not there and the following week the other asked where she had been? Oh! I was not feeling very well so I stayed at home she said. If I had the choice of attending either a hospital run by the National Health Service or Richard Branson, I know which one I would choose, and it would not be the NHS.


Ringwood Grove, Weston


I WRITE more in sorrow than in anger regretting the fact that a local Liberal Democrat councillor – namely Mike Bell – is opposing moves to put Weston General Hospital on a sound financial footing, inline with national Coalition Government policy to which his party has signed up.

He is neither representing the best interests of his constituents, or his party leaders.


Weston Conservatives, Alexandra Parade, Weston

Thank you

I AM just home from an operation on my clavicle and have had an amazingly good experience in our hospital.

I wanted to say thank you to the teams in Mr Bould’s orthopaedic trauma surgery and the great team who work in the pre-operative clinic and the day case unit.

There was great team work, person-centred care, and a lovely environment. There were good links between surgery, recovery care, X-ray, physiotherapy, phone calls post surgery and clear information.

Thank you all for being so welcoming, helpful and friendly making me feel confident the care I was going to get and received.


High Street, Banwell

Must fight

IT SEEMS that Weston has a new mayor, Keith Morris.

Over the years the role of Weston’s town mayor has been seen as exclusively ceremonial. Bristol has, since the end of the nineteenth century, had a lord mayor who fulfils the ceremonial role. Now Bristol has a directly elected mayor as well as the lord mayor.

Weston needs our mayor to fulfil the same role as Bristol’s elected mayor in addition to his ceremonial duties, that is, as the person where the buck stops.

Like his predecessor, David Hitchins, Weston’s new mayor belongs to the majority Conservative Party, so he represents the political position of most Westonians.

To paraphrase Lord Heseltine on his recent visit to Bristol, there is no-one at the seats of power asking, “What’s good for Weston?” We need the new mayor to do just that on behalf of Weston, and the Weston town region as a tourist destination.

It was alarming to read in the Mercury that Weston’s General Hospital is up for sale.

Together with our MP John Penrose, the new mayor must fight to keep Weston Area Health Trust fully within the NHS, which the Prime Minister David Cameron assured us was safe in his hands.


Priory Road, Weston

Public feeling

CONTRARY to recently published reports, the historic restrictive covenant which governs the use of the Grove Park Tennis Courts remains firmly in place.

Legislation requires the Diocese of Bath and Wells to serve notice of their intentions upon the Parochial Church Council of St John’s before any agreement can be made to amend or release the covenant on the land in question. Members of the church council are aware of the strength of public feeling regarding the proposal to turn the tennis courts into a car park.


Rector of St John the Baptist, Cecil Road, Weston


THE issue of turning the only public tennis courts in Weston town centre into car parking raises three central issues.

Do we need more car parking space in this area of the town?

Should the people of Weston and its many visitors have access to tennis courts?

The integrity of the church and the council.

Since the introduction of parking meters and the new car park by the library, the parking situation in Weston has changed. Having randomly monitored the Grove Park car park I have never seen it full. As the summer approaches I suggest that the council officers monitor this and then draw up a coherent parking strategy.

There are no decent tennis facilities open to the general public in central Weston. To claim that the courts are not used (though I have seen youngsters trying) is asking us to fall for the old trick of allowing a resource to become totally degraded and unusable, then claiming that no-one wants it. In an area of high deprivation surely there should not be a reduction of facilities.

When the area behind the Winter Gardens was remodelled the existing courts were destroyed and an undertaking was given to ensure there would be good facilities elsewhere.

The existing tennis courts in Grove Park were built on land left under covenant from the church to provide a recreation area for Weston residents. For the church to consider releasing the covenant to North Somerset Council for money is deeply disturbing. We may be used to a lack of integrity from the council, but not the Church of England.


Stafford Place, Weston


MANY seem to be confused about the availability of the Grove Park tennis courts for car parking.

It is reported that the church has accepted £15,000 for the covenant so that North Somerset Council can turn the courts into a car park, and although this may seem a lot of money it is only half the value of a household garage.

I am also informed by a reliable source from St John’s Church that no such agreement has been made so what on earth is going on?

I agree with John Crockford-Hawley that we are in need of more tennis courts, not less. There are only a handful of public courts in the whole of Weston and not everyone wants to join one of the tennis clubs. Tennis is now one of the most popular sports in this country and is a healthy way to enjoy life.

Do we really want another car park? And why is the council so obsessed with providing more space for cars when it is not necessary?

I can see this situation going on and on wasting everybody’s time and money.


Clarence Grove Road, Weston


IT SEEMS one of our local councillors is concerned that lads playing football in Grove Park are likely to cause irritation.

How strange as this same councillor is not the least concerned that lads playing football in Shrubbery Park cause more than irritation – they cause damage and distress. He dismisses our situation by telling us we should remember our youth.

Residents around Shrubbery Park have had to endure damaged walls and fences, invasion of our gardens, footballs smashing into our windows, broken tiles, defaced walls, broken shed window and more.

A lady in her 80s recently received a violent blow to her shoulder from a football. Residents are now afraid to use their gardens whilst a match is in progress.

On May 5 a crowd of lads came from we know not where. They told us they wanted to play the match at Hutton Park but could not afford the fee so came to Shrubbery Park.

Sure enough by the end of the afternoon the ball had smashed into the windows of a local property and ended up in a newly-planted flower pot.

To be fair to the lads concerned they were apologetic and when I explained the continued problems they agreed that Shrubbery Park is unsuitable for football. I advised them to go to Grove Park as there is more room and there are not residential properties near the pitch area.

The owners of the property struck by the ball were out that afternoon but they often sit on their balcony overlooking the park. If they had been there it could have caused serious injury as the lady of the house is waiting for a surgical operation and could not easily dodge a fast moving football.

Also at risk are small children who play in the adjoining infants play park. There have been numerous occasions when footballs have been kicked into the road and have struck cars risking a traffic accident.

Readers of this letter may wonder why the council allows this situation to continue. We understand that a few years ago there were no ball games signs at the entrances to the park. There were removed and goal posts were put at the behest of the local Neighbourhood Watch.

When we raised the subject at a Watch meeting we were told by the chair to: “Go and build a high wall”. Very neighbourly!

They outvoted us, of course, and when we asked the council to assist the Neighbourhood Watch team, drew up a petition signed by people not affected by the problem.

Our concerns were dismissed despite the fact that two councillors visited the site and after viewing the area agreed the goal posts should be removed on health and safety grounds.

I have sympathy for young people looking to find somewhere to play a game of football but it has to be in an area that does not cause upset for local residents who simply want to enjoy the use of their own property.

Our councillors have a duty to ensure residents are able to spend a peaceful afternoon in their gardens. They must find somewhere more appropriate for ball games.

And should the councillor be interested I do remember my youth. It was during World War Two when each day we were unsure if it was our last.

I experienced school mates affected by the bombing raids in Bridgwater. I remember leaving school and starting work at 14 and then doing National Service at 18. I would not wish any of this on the youth of today but what I can say is that if we were asked by an adult to stop playing ball games we would have done so our of respect. Perhaps our councillors should show us some respect.


Shrubbery Avenue, Weston

College meal

LAST Thursday in my role as a councillor I attended the mayor making ceremony for our new mayor Keith Morris and his mayoress Jos Holder.

After the ceremony in the Weston Town Hall we all made our way to Weston College for a meal.

The students and staff there were absolutely amazing in their faultless attitudes as they served us with a terrific meal – in fact I would recommend their restaurant to anyone who wanted a lovely meal served by terrific staff.

After enjoying the meal the students’ cabaret team was absolutely brilliant, so much so that if it took part in Britain’s got Talent I honestly believe it would win.

The evening was made so pleasurable by the splendid students and their so engaging cabaret act that I was sorry to see the end of that day.


Wyvern Ward, South Lawn, Locking

No help

IN RESPONSE to John Christophers’ letter regarding the Tourist Information Centre (TIC). I fully support his comments.

In 2011, after visiting many coastal towns, my husband and I decided that a move to Weston to look for a guest house was a good idea as all of the information we gathered was looking very favourably on the town.

Sadly, although we are now settled and running a small business, the deciding factors haven’t materialised. For example the ongoing saga of the Tropicana, no large stores signed up to the new Dolphin Square development, North Somerset Council going out of their way to hinder tourism growth in Weston and the list goes on.

One huge let down for us is the TIC which offers no help in attracting guests to our establishment whatsoever. I spent some time last year with a particular lady who works there trying to ascertain what they could offer my business. As I was too late for last year’s list, I was told that they were considering a new list for 2013 whereby accommodation providers paid an annual fee, and in return their details would be given to prospective guests. I thought that this would help me get started and attract new business and that I would join.

On visiting the same lady this year I was told that it wasn’t going to happen so I asked what could I do.

The only answer was to pay a rather larger amount and advertise in the magazines promoting Weston.

Once again though, I was too late and had missed the deadline. I really couldn’t have afforded it anyway as I only have two bedrooms to let and the revenue wouldn’t have stretched that far.

All in all, they do a pretty poor job – or certainly not the sort of job I expect a tourism office to give to our very welcome visitors. I agree, the coffee shop comes first and foremost and at times I have had to walk out because the wait was too long.

As the comment about disorganisation, yet again John has hit the nail on its head (this also applies to the View Bar). I feel that this is one service that should be provided for by our council and not some private company that doesn’t give two hoots. Mind you – I guess the council doesn’t either which is why it got rid of it. Whilst staff leave and morale is low things cannot improve, and when it does it has to come from the top at Parkwood Leisure and I do wonder if anyone there has a clue to what’s happening here.


Spencer Guest House, Haywood Gardens, Weston

Civic society

LONG time or new members of the Weston Civic Society may still be unaware that the society is in the process of being taken over by a gang of people who have very strong opinions which do not coincide with the intelligent and civilised approach manifested for so long by people like Martin Taylor, Phil Beasley, Bob Smart and others.

I would not wish to impose my own opinions onto a democratic process, even though this process has involved non-Westonians shouting abuse at people who have served the community for decades, but I would suggest that anyone thinking of subscribing to the civic society now should perhaps wait a bit to see what way the wind blows.


Alma Street, Weston

Remind us

DAVID Drinkwater was quite right last week to remind us of the many benefits for working people that have been gained by trade unions over the last century or so.

And he was also right to point out the apparent double standards that exist in modern society’s attitudes between rich and poor. Why is it that the wealthy are encouraged to do better by being allowed to keep more while those less well-off are constantly forced to accept a smaller amount in order to progress?

We all know that this country is going through a tough economic period. Just locally, North Somerset Council has to make £91million of savings over the next few years and even Weston General Hospital is now up for sale. And it’s in these straitened times that workers, especially low-paid workers, are particularly vulnerable to such insidious pressures as accepting zero-hours contracts or working below the national minimum wage.

Even Chancellor George Osborne recently proposed a cynical scheme for workers to sign away all their hard-won employment rights such as unfair dismissal, redundancy payments and reasonable maternity conditions in return for company shares. Fortunately, the House of Lords rejected this risible plan but the recent Bangladeshi garment factory disaster (just the latest of many such tragedies) is a sobering demonstration of what unregulated working conditions can lead to.

And it’s no surprise that one of the first things the anti-EU brigade want to abolish is the European Working Time Directive which regulates workers’ hours and protects them from exploitation. The usual old dinosaurs will continue to moan about this country ‘going to the dogs’ but we’ve come a long way since the Tolpuddle Martyrs were transported to Australia because they asked for nothing more than fair treatment and the right to organise.


Church Road, Winscombe


I AM not a driver, but I think something must be done about speeding drivers.

Where I live on the Bournville, which is a 20mph zone, I see many drivers, including bus drivers, speeding.

There are often children playing on the paths and I think that it is only time until a child gets killed by one of these speeding vehicles.


Holms Road, Bournville estate, Weston

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