Letters to the Editor, June 23, 2011

PUBLISHED: 11:09 24 June 2011 | UPDATED: 10:24 30 June 2011



Where it is due

THERE are times when North Somerset Council comes up trumps and we should give credit where it is due.

My wife and I live in a tree-lined road and recently the lower branches have obstructed walking on the pavements.

In some cases it has been difficult to keep one eye on the badly maintained pavements and the other eye trying to dodge the branches.

Last week my wife telephoned the council during the morning and in the afternoon the strimmers were out and the workmen did a brilliant job to rectify the situation. So thank you for such a quick response and now, perhaps, you will sort out the state of the pavements.


Clarence Grove Road, Weston

Very shabby

I’M SURE that Princess Anne will be very impressed with our new pier and the improvements of our sea defences, but will anything be done to clean up the paving on the seafront before she comes?

It is now looking very shabby with chewing gum everywhere and with all the millions that have been spent on the improvements, surely it’s not too much to expect the council to keep it clean?

All that I have seen is one man with his trolley half-heartedly picking up the litter.

If we want people to come to our town, surely we should look after it and keep it clean?


Belgrave Road, Weston

Big Cream Tea

WESTON Hospicecare would like to say a massive thank you to all the businesses and community groups that took part in The Big Cream Tea last week.

The Big Cream Tea was all about getting together to share a cream tea and raise money for Weston Hospicecare – what a great excuse to eat all that jam and cream!

More than 15 Big Cream Teas happened within Weston and the surrounding areas and thanks to your fantastic support we look set to reach our target for this event of £2,500.

We are very lucky to have such a fantastic support network from the local community and local businesses, and we cannot thank them enough.

The money raised will be vital in helping the 1,300 people and their families that will visit the hospice this year and play a big part in going towards our £3million a year fundraising target that we have during 2011.

Thank you again Weston and our Big Cream Tea hosts!


Corporate fundraiser, Weston Hospicecare

Thornbury Road, Uphill

More publicity

RE: MADELEINE – oh, come on! The McCann’s have had far more publicity than any other family with a missing child. How do you think those others feel?

I do feel that their persistence is driven partly by guilt – they did leave their children unattended.


Old Church Road, Uphill

Sunday concerts

THE many fans of Sunday concerts in Grove Park will want to know that John Horler, the cafe concessionaire, has taken it upon himself to provide stacks of chairs for our convenience. What a hero he is!

This is a poke in the eye for the council - what meanies for withdrawing the deckchairs and spoiling people’s innocent pleasure.

It reminded me of the song about a poor old man in the workhouse who “... held out his pudding for treacle - and the warder took it away”.


Stanley Road, Weston

Bristol airport

I wish to inform your readers of a scheme recently introduced by Bristol International Airport.

As most people know, car drivers take a ticket and were allowed 10 minutes in the drop off/pick up zone to deliver and collect airport passengers.

Now BIA has devised away of extorting more money from the travelling public.

On a visit on Thursday last, I found signs on the airport approach road forbidding cars to stop to drop/collect passengers with a charge being made to enter the drop zone.

I recently flew from John Lennon Airport Liverpool, who provided a drop zone four times the size of Bristol’s without charge and I noted charge 50% less to park the car. If other airports can provide such a service why can’t BIA?


Bristol Road, Whitchurch, Bristol

Proper crossing

AS A tourist town, I would have thought we would want to make key facilities as easy as possible for visitors to reach.

I am therefore amazed that to reach the town’s Tourist Information Office (TIC) from the prom visitors have to risk life and limb climbing over the new sea wall, and then crossing a busy road as there are no crossings to the TIC for at least 100 meters either side.

Many times I have seen old people struggle to climb the benches to get across the road, or a young couple trying to manage a pram over the wall.

Surely this is something that could have been envisaged when the TIC was moved and provision put in place for a proper crossing.

If nothing is done then it’s only a matter of time before someone is badly injured either scaling the wall, or knocked down trying to cross the road.

Come on council, let’s not put barriers in the way of our visitors enjoying Weston to the full.


Weston Walks

Based on the prom, opposite the TIC

Avoid Weston

I AM writing to warn those of your readers that are Blue Badge holders to avoid Weston if you are planning to visit the town and expect to be able to park your car free of charge.

There is no on-street spaces ever available and if you can get in one of the council car parks, you will have to pay £1.10 for the first hour before being able to get the second hour free.

You can forget about being able to use your Blue Badge concession and park on yellow lines because they have deliberately put loading restriction markings on all the roads close to the town centre making it illegal to park. I am a disabled war widow and have just given up on the town.

I have recently returned from a short break in Minehead and West Somerset council provide three hours of free parking for Blue Badge holders in all their car parks and on street parking zones.

Also, all the roads with yellow lines are free from those “W-S-M yellow bars” on the kerb, except, naturally, in the necessary areas.

I wonder if the majority of residents of North Somerset are aware that there is a total of 61 district councillors on the council and none of them are prepared to spare some thought for disabled drivers and the problems they face each time they try to park their cars as close to the town centre as they can.

What about disabled veterans that may want to visit the town, after all it is supposed to be a holiday resort. What a welcome for them if they come in their cars.

Never mind these politicians (local and MPs) going to the war memorials on poppy day to remember the dead, remember the survivors too and think about some of the simple things they could actually do to help – two or three hours free parking for Blue Badge holders being one of them.

As well as West Somerset, Sedgemoor District Council and Bristol City do this despite these times of financial hardship and ‘cuts’, so visits to Burnham or Bristol – no problem. They obviously have some thoughtful and considerate councillors.

Another thing that North Somerset should do is employ traffic wardens to enforce the parking laws in Weston, they would make piles of money with the enforcement notices they would have to dish out. The police are supposed to do it, but don’t.

They didn’t before the ‘cuts’, so they naturally will not do it now.

Anything goes in the town, loading bays choke up with illegally parked cars, and goodness knows how the genuine delivery vehicles cope because I know many of them simply have to block some of the streets off to do their work.

Drivers that are not displaying Blue Badges parking on the few reserved bays preventing genuine badge holders.

I could go on forever so I had better sign off now, but must repeat to all your readers that without exaggeration, Weston is one of the worst towns in England for disabled drivers to access and park their cars.


South Lawn, Locking

In Bloom

ON BEHALF of Weston in Bloom I should like to say a big thank you to all the volunteers who have worked very hard this spring.

We have installed new wicker baskets at Paddock Park and replaced two of the boats on the roundabouts that were donated by Bristol Water who also delivered them free of charge.

The volunteers have also replanted the containers in Worle High Street, the donkey by Browns garage, floral train in Alexander Parade and numerous other containers throughout the town.

So thanks again to everyone for their help.


Vice-chairman Weston in Bloom

Cormorant Close, Worle

Back in my day

ON FRIDAY at the till in Asda supermarket the cashier told an older woman that she could bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

The woman said: “We didn’t have the green thing back in my day.”

The cashier responded: “That’s our problem today, your generation did not care enough to save our environment.”

The woman was right, that generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

Back then, they returned their milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles. They were sent back to the plant to be washed and sterilised and refilled so the same bottles could be used over and over, so they were really recycled.

In her day they walked upstairs because they didn’t have a lift in every store and office building. They walked to the shops and didn’t climb into a car every time they had to go a few hundred yards. Back then they washed the baby’s nappies. They dried clothes on a washing line. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand new fashion clothes.

Back then they had one radio or TV in the house – not a TV in every room, and the TV had a screen the size of a handkerchief not the size of the Isle of Wight.

In the kitchen they blended and stirred by hand because they didn’t have electric machines to do everything. When they packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, they used a wadded up old newspaper to cushion it. Back then they didn’t fire up an engine and burn petrol to cut the lawn, they used a push mower that ran on human power.

They exercised by working so they didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

They drank from a fountain or tap when they were thirsty instead of using a plastic cup or bottle every time they had a drink of water.

They refilled their writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen and they replaced the blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. Back then people took the bus and kids rode their bikes to school instead of turning their parents into a 24-hour taxi service.

They had one or two electrical sockets in a room not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances and they didn’t need a computerised gadget to receive a signal from satellites 2,000 miles out in space to find the nearest takeaway.


Beechmount Drive, Weston

Jill’s Garden

I VISITED Weston for a couple of days last week and went to look at Jill Dando’s garden in the park in the centre of Weston. We were most impressed with the formal gardens as we followed the signposts to Jill’s Garden but what a shock when we got to her actual garden. We thought it was very neglected and in need of a revamp.

The idea is wonderful and there were a couple of people sitting reading and contemplating there but surely when the rest of the park is so well-kept it is disrespectful to her memory to leave it so.

Please put whatever pressure you can on the council to attend to this garden.


Compton Road, Pedmore, Stourbridge,

West Midlands


IN THE many years of my life I have lived in towns and villages in several parts of the country under councils of differing political persuasions, but never one so complacent as North Somerset Council (NSC).

I remember only too well when councillors stood as independents and not subject to today’s political bias.

I have never come across such a plethora of potholes in the roads as there are in North Somerset and in Weston in particular. I have written to the highways department on several occasions, but they adopt an uninterested attitude and have consistently failed to initiate repairs on long-standing very poor road conditions. No doubt they will plead poverty but at the same time forge their obligations, and never once do they apologise.

Did they plead poverty for the refurbishment of Pier Square and the promenade through to Knightstone? I admit it looks very good but believe priorities should have been directed elsewhere. Portholes apart, for how much longer do we have the witness the damaged metal railings on both side of Devonshire Road opposite Broadoak School.

How much longer for the damaged and incomplete road signs – the bottom half only remaining – at the roundabout at the junction of Drove Road and Marchfields Way. How much longer will the metre-high weeds and consequent accumulation of wind-blown rubbish be allowed to remain at the town end of Herluin Way between Searle Crescent and the Winterstoke Road roundabout?

There are but just a few problems needing attention, no doubt there are plenty more. Those in charge, both elected and appointed – I cannot say responsible – at NSC should hang their heads in shame or better still resign.

Why is so much of council taxpayers’ money on the move of NSC hundreds of workers to Clevedon and moving the library to the town hall being wasted when much more urgent matters should receive priority?

Sorry, I forgot it is NSC I am referring to.


Bleadon Hill, Weston

YOUR last edition had a photograph of school pupils from Ashbrooke House re-creating a scene for a special Victorian day, which I found faintly amusing particularly the text, ‘these pupils were spared the rod as they travelled back to the 19th century’ and a school mistress holding a cane.

As an Ashbrooke House old boy of the late 1950s, I and my contemporaries, then nine or 10 years old would remember well the staircase where the photograph was staged. At the top of the stairs the first door on the left was the headmaster’s study, where we would wait outside to be called in and given the cane, it was normally delivered in fours or sixes depending on the severity of the misdemeanour and, as I can personally testify, in football shorts if you were unlucky enough to be preparing for games when summoned to Mr Thompson’s study.

This happened more than 50 years after Queen Victoria’s death.


Roman Road, Bleadon

I AM writing to explain to the people of Weston and its surroundings the circumstances that led to me leaving Weston Area Health NHS Trust, where I worked as a consultant haematologist from 2005 until August 2010.

They will otherwise never know the reasons for my departure as the trust will certainly never make these public.

The formal explanation will simply be that I retired, which is technically true but belies the facts of the matter.

I have lived with and worked for the NHS all of my life. I cherish it and have worked long and hard to sustain it in some small way throughout my career in medicine.

I have seen many changes in the 35 years since I qualified but I have always taken the view, as do many of us who work in the NHS, that I am a public servant and ultimately accountable to the public who fund the service.

There have been difficult times when the only important criterion for Trust chief executives was to balance the books at the end of the year.

This ended when clinical governance came to the fore. Quality of care became an issue of equal importance and regulatory bodies were set up to define standards and monitor adherence to these. Regretfully, it is sometimes too easy for hospitals to pay lip service to some of these standards and to compromise patient care as a consequence.

Having seen this happen too often in the past (I worked as a consultant in three other trusts before I came to Weston), I have taken a particular interest in clinical governance and in analysing clinical systems to assess what makes them work well and also why failures occur, as they inevitably will from time to time, even in the best regulated organisations.

Failures can occur as a result of individual shortcomings or genuine errors and will do so whenever humans are involved in the process.

Clearly, it is important to have appropriately trained staff and the right skill mix to run the service but the staff must also be appropriately supported to make effective contributions to any system in which they work.

Badly designed and operated systems will inevitably fail more easily and more often and it is the responsibility of trust managers to ensure that the systems for which they are responsible operate effectively and, above all, safely as well as cost effectively. This is always a challenge.

I have never known a time when NHS staff have not claimed that it is underfunded, but the balance has not always been as favourable as it has been in recent years, although clearly we have now entered a new era of austerity.

It is for managers to strike an appropriate balance and to justify expenditure needed to provide safe and effective services for the public, but it is incumbent on those managers to heed the advice of the clinical staff charged with delivering the clinical care. Do not expect them to provide safe care with inadequate resources. Ensure that essential services are safe as well as cost effective. If you cannot achieve all that you might like, at least don’t cause harm.

It was against this background that I came to Weston Area Health NHS Trust, the first whole-time consultant haematologist to be employed there.

Hitherto, the clinical haematology service had been provided by visiting consultants from Bristol and the laboratory had very little clinical supervision. Systems vulnerable to error.

I set about trying to attain the standards of clinical laboratory and patient care to which I had been trained to aspire.

Not my standards but those of national regulatory bodies.

I have never shirked work and I put a great deal of effort into making the changes that were needed, with some initial success.

I believe that I helped to transform the clinical haematology service but in the laboratory I was less successful. I was frustrated and dismayed by some of the most senior managers’ decisions but was powerless to rectify the situation.

Although nominally the ‘clinical lead for haematology’, I had no management authority myself and was eventually reduced to pointing out when errors occurred, as they did with alarming frequency, to illustrate where and why the systems were failing.

This did not make me popular with my senior managerial colleagues and I was seen as a nuisance and disloyal. Nothing could have been further from the truth. I lived and worked in Weston, where I was potentially as dependent upon the local healthcare provision as anybody else.

It mattered to me to make sure that we were delivering a safe service and I did my best to ensure that my own contribution was the best that I could manage.

For the most part I believe that the patients under my direct care appreciated my efforts.

I didn’t always please everybody but even those who might have preferred to see somebody else can be assured that I always tried my best for every patient who I saw.

By the start of 2010, my own workload had increased to a level that was difficult to manage. At 58 years old I could not sustain excessive working hours indefinitely.

I tried hard to negotiate a reduction to a standard working week, which should have been feasible but was in practice impossible without additional support and, as usual, no funding was available to employ new clinical staff.

I suggested a number of cost-neutral options, all of which were rejected without serious consideration by my managers.

All very frustrating. So I put forward one final suggestion, that I should retire (thereby taking my pension, which appeared under threat with a general election looming).

This would free my entire salary for re-investment in the service, I hoped to continue to work in a less well paid, perhaps part-time capacity so that we could employ an additional consultant and, overall, provide a sustainable clinical service.

I still had serious reservations about the laboratory but felt that the only way to improve this would eventually be from within. I need not have worried.

I gave five months notice of my intention to retire and my wish to continue as outlined but, to this day, I have not even been dignified by a response from the trust chief executive.

No post for which I could apply was advertised and so I was obliged to look for work elsewhere. I am now employed as a consultant haematologist on the Isle of Wight.

When, eventually, a consultant post was advertised, in December 2010, nine months after my decision to retire, I applied out of interest.

To my deep regret, but perhaps I should not have been surprised, my application was rejected without further consideration. I was not even offered an interview.

No appointment was made because there were no other suitable applicants and the clinical haematology service has continued to be run by a succession of locums.

So I enquired why I had been rejected out of hand and was informed that ‘the trust’s decision was informed by the knowledge that during your employment with the trust you maintained difficult working relationships with some trust colleagues’.

I should make it clear that no action has ever been taken against me by the trust. Nor could any have been because my ‘crime’ has been to point out flawed services.

I have always endeavoured to provide the best service possible in compliance with clinical governance standards.

Unfortunately, some senior managers appear to make up the standards as they go along and they do so with apparent impunity.

Nobody holds them accountable and decisions may be intimidating to the extent that individuals may fear for their jobs.

I have been around some of these people long enough not to be intimidated by them but that makes me a threat and, however well-intentioned I may have been, there is little that I can do about the situation other than make it more widely known and to registered my opinion that this constitutes an abuse of the authority invested in these people by the public of this country and it always represents a threat to patient care.

I can only apologise to the patients for whom I cared and who may feel that I abandoned them.

The official trust line remains that I retired and left of my own volition.

The truth of the matter is that the trust senior managers placed me under great duress and were then happy to abandon me and cover up the service failures. I tried.


Jubilee Place, Cowes, Isle of Wight

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