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Monday, 24 November 2014

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Time for some straight talking on the future of our hospital

SIR – The reason for confusion over our hospital’s future is that some of our community leaders do not understand the hospital management jargon.

It is all about reading and listening to a secret language.

From the very first moment the two hospitals merged, the projected scenario was that the West Cumberland Hospital would be a ‘Treat and Transfer’ centre.

Closer to Home was to work in partnership with this “new vision” and more community nurses and services were required, with £80million given through Closer to Home to re-train and employ the necessary staff to develop the new vision.

It never happened. Where did the pounds go?

Acute trauma was to transfer to Carlisle with all elective surgery and day surgery to transfer to the West in stages with effective planning and continually risk assessed. It never happened.

Some services were to be in Penrith, Wigton, Cockermouth and Millom, resulting in equality, so everyone travelled for various health services. Smaller specialist units were to be funded and centralised. It never happened.

Patients were to be assessed in A&E to stop inappropriate admissions and staff to work with community staff on discharge. There was no increase in staffing levels, resulting in lack of enough manpower for good continuity of service; staff overwhelmed with numbers. It never happened

The partnership trust did not make provision for the growing number of elderly confused and the council closing necessary homes, again leaving vulnerable patients in inappropriate nursing wards in acute areas.

How does Northumbria plan to move trauma to Carlisle and other services to the West when the new-build won’t be ready until 2015?

Are we in for another total mismatch, squashing more patients into fewer beds and hoping there are no tragedies?

The trust needs to be honest but we need to be asking the right questions and understanding these plans. A good public meeting with the plans in detail could put all minds at rest. Can it work? Will it improve our health and exactly who will monitor it apart from the trust itself? John Bannister has been a stalwart – now he should join in a call for honesty and integrity. Can both interim chief executives (Mr Goodwin and Ms Farrer) be there?

Christine WHARRIER

Calder Avenue, Whitehaven

SIR – In the last few years there has been a lot of criticism of the NHS from various quarters. I don’t pretend to understand all the financial and organisational complexities concerning the NHS, but, I would like to offer my recent experiences as regards our health system.

I am retired and recently spent about six weeks in two Cumbrian hospitals – the West Cumbrian hospital in Whitehaven and the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle. I was in intensive care and also on an ordinary ward. I came out of hospital about three weeks ago and have been receiving treatment at home since I was discharged.

I cannot praise too highly all the staff involved in my recovery: the doctors, the nurses, the support staff, my own GP, the home carers, Age Concern, the District nurses and the Occupational Therapist. I have been rather overwhelmed in fact by all the kindness and dedication shown to me. It is something for which Whitehaven and Cumbria can be very proud.

So, whatever the problems are which beset the NHS, it is certainly not the skill or dedication of its Cumbrian personnel that is a problem.

M. GREENWOOD

Whitehaven

SIR – What is going on with the bin round and recycling? Since getting the new calendar, there has been more confusion than ever as to when you might just get your rubbish taken away... or more than likely you won’t!

My black box has not been emptied in almost two months, even though it has been placed at my front gate, in the same place as I have always put it, just inside the gate – it can’t go outside because it would prevent cars going past. It is very clear to see, but is it too much work to open a gate and get it out?

Yesterday, everyone on my road (The Green) put their black bins out for collection, but once again they are still all there uncollected!

Are we all being stupid, or is the council just changing collection times when it feels like it? I have had to put the contents of my green and white recycling bags several times into my car to be emptied at various recycling points, as I don’t even think they pick them up at all anymore.

Can someone at the council please devise a calendar that is easy to understand, hasn’t got mistakes on it and doesn’t change its mind when it feels like it.

And if cardboard and plastic has stopped being collected on Bransty can you please tell us this piece of useful information?

C. YOUNG

The Green, Bransty

SIR – Having read thoroughly the letter from David I Wood (December 27), I wanted to reassure your readers that we are very happy to share ‘all the relevant facts’ about the process for implementing a geological disposal facility.

We fully support the work of the MRWS Partnership, responding to their requests for information, attending all their meetings and supporting community drop in sessions in order to make ourselves as open and available as possible.

Mr Wood suggests that we have not been wholly frank in our statements suggesting that we have already decided to investigate Ennerdale Fell. However, nothing could be further from the truth. The position is that we would investigate any sites or areas that have been volunteered by the community. Mr Ellis was simply stating the fact that if Ennerdale is volunteered we would investigate it, consistent with that policy.

There is no question of trying ‘to make the geology fit’. If the geology is not suitable in any area or site we are asked to investigate, we will simply not proceed in that area.

We are not alone in this approach, with the Canadian authorities currently pursuing the same path.

Finally, it is not true to say that ‘on one matter all expert geological opinion seems to be agreed’, that finding suitable geology in West Cumbria is at best remote. The British Geological Survey carried out an initial assessment to identify those areas of West Cumbria that do not have suitable geology. Having ruled those areas out, approximately 1,800 square kilometres remain as potentially suitable and include geology similar to that being investigated in Europe and elsewhere.

The most important point of all is that the forthcoming vote is about investigating further the suitability of the area and it is not the final decision on whether to host a geological disposal facility.

Bruce McKIRDY

Managing Director, Radioactive Waste Management Directorate, NDA

SIR – In response to the article by John Clarke, chief executive of the NDA (December 13), I am surprised that the issue of storing all waste together under health and safety has not been addressed.

This has been done in the past and should not be done in the future. To isolate by a reduction in size and in different location is the way forward.

No mention of alternative has been given, also a compromise has not been talked about, to set people’s minds at rest.

We have a tried and tested storage system at the moment – why can’t we incorporate new technology based on this and give other generations a say in an upgrade in the future instead of us deciding for them?

If Scotland goes independent I hope provision is in hand to export their waste back to them as we have done with other countries.

S LINFOOT

Egremont Road, Hensingham

SIR – Many of your readers must be unclear why it is that people living in Ennerdale (and Wasdale and Eskdale) think their area is likely to be investigated as a site for the GDF. The reason has been touched on in your letters page but, unless I have missed it, has never been expressly stated in your news coverage.

The NDA and local authorities say no potential sites have been identified in the MRWS final report. You must know that whilst this is true, it is only part of the truth.

In your next piece on the GDF, will you explain the opinion of the Partnership’s independent geologist, Dr Jeremy Dearlove, given in his letter to them of June 18 2012, about the two potentially suitable rock volumes in West Cumbria, and provide a sketch map showing the position of the granite rocks of the Lake District Batholith?

You could also show the Mercia Mudstone rock below the Solway Plain, but point out that, unlike Ennerdale, it is too far from Sellafield for surface facilities to be located there.

The NDA and politicians will have a response, but as residents are being accused of groundless scare-mongering, these facts ought to be clearly set out in the open.

Paul PHARAOH

Irton, Holmrook

SIR – I am concerned that Ennerdale, its environs and economy will be severely damaged if we proceed to Stage 4 of the MRWS.

I understand that it is not politically acceptable to quote Ennerdale as the site identified for further investigation. However, Dr Jeremy Dearlove, the MRWS’s own geologist, has publicly declared that there are only “two rock volumes in West Cumbria worth further investigation”. The Ennerdale/Eskdale granites and the Mercia Mudstone under Silloth. At the same public meeting the rock volume under Silloth was shown as being too small to host the facility outlined by the MRWS documents and too far from Sellafield. It is therefore understandable that Ennerdale feels threatened. It is also understandable that, with the already low level of trust in politicians, denial of what is clear to most people reinforces the feeling that we are not being given the truthfulness we deserve.

With trust in mind, the West Cumbria MRWS is also seen to be flawed through political interference.

We understand from published documents in the MRWS, that there is pressure from both the government and Copeland Borough Council to speed up the process. In addition, it was reported that our local MP intimated at the recent public meeting in Whitehaven, that if the MRWS doesn’t come up with the “right” answer, Copeland will try to go it alone. There have been no denials of this so it is assumed to be correct.

The host community of Ennerdale has clearly said it does not wish to proceed. But Ennerdale aside, it would appear that the parish councils have been sidelined, as the majority do not support going forward. When you take into account the above points, is it any wonder that few informed people have concerns about the process going to Stage 4.

With money in mind, large numbers of people are concerned that when we are living daily with the cuts to council services, millions of taxpayers’ pounds are being frittered away on a process that is not likely to succeed. Dr Dearlove has publicly declared that there was a “low probability” of the two rock volumes in West Cumbria being found suitable after testing. If the process moves forward, the difficulties in overcoming the obstacles brought about by siting an industrial site in the nation’s first national park and the need to carry out a Strategic Environmental Assessment in an area covered by multiple SSSIs and various sites of historical importance, make the likelihood of success seem remote. So is it any wonder that few informed people want to continue wasting money that could be better spent searching for a site that is more likely to be suitable and safe.

With employment in mind, the damage to the Lake District brand and consequential loss of jobs will happen long before a spade breaks ground. There may well be a group from the MRWS who are set up to manage (spin) the negative impact brought about by the building of a repository within the Lake District but the damage has already begun.

There is already concern being voiced within the Wainwright’s Coast To Coast Industry. With small rural communities and farms being encouraged to diversify and increase the tourism trade, a small percentage drop within the market is likely to have a severe affect within West Cumbria. The net loss of jobs and income is likely to be more than the projected gain from the repository. By the rural nature of the community affected by the loss of jobs, it is also unlikely to be the one that would benefit from any jobs created. The knock-on effect will spread throughout retailers, suppliers delivery firms etc.

So what is the alternative? I accept that we have a large amount of legacy waste to deal with now. If we continue the West Cumbria MRWS process and it is successful in finding a site, it will still be years before it will dispose of any of the legacy waste.

We should be concentrating the resources being wasted on the MRWS into creating safe interim storage. In addition, there is an increasing amount of discussion and information on the internet with regard to building Fast Neutron Reactors to decrease the stockpile of waste. The NDA is reported to be investigating the possibility of two new Fast Neutron Reactors at Sellafield. This would have the added bonus of a large number of jobs and the potential to create income.

With all the above in mind, surely to promulgate the search for underground storage in rock volume that according to Dr Dearlove, has at best a “low probability” of being suitable, is criminally negligent and wasteful in these times of austerity.

As a councillor, please don’t let your legacy be: “At a time when every other authority or department was cutting back, they knowingly squandered millions on a project that was unlikely to succeed.”

Roger PARKER

Kirkland Road, Kirkland

SIR – this is an open letter to Cumbria Wildlife Trust, with congratulations on its 50th anniversary.

I am a long time member and support much of the excellent work the Trust has done. A flagship campaign into 2013 is the push for recognised Marine Conservation Zones. This is a really important campaign but I cannot support MCZs which allow for nuclear developments.

In Cumbria this is especially important with the prospect of government plans for both new nuclear build and the national geological nuclear dump.

Has CWT opposed the plan for new build at Sellafield? A new nuclear plant would require huge amounts of water (both sea and fresh) and would dangerously raise the temperature of the Irish Sea around Sellafield. The proposed new nuclear plant would burn the fuel for longer producing hotter wastes and according to the Environment Agency would require a desalination plant to provide unlimited fresh water. A desalination plant (salt water intake) would disturb substantial radioactive silts on the Irish Sea bed and the intake pipes for huge amounts of sea water per second would damage significant fish stocks.

Has CWT opposed the plan for a geological dump? The government plan is for the radioactivity to percolate out sooner or later to the Irish Sea.

As a wildlife enthusiast I cannot support Marine Conservation Zones which would allow for these nuclear developments. CWT opposed the plan for new build at Kirksanton, the same objections re water use, sea temperature rise and damage to sea life, apply at Sellafield. Will Cumbria Wildlife Trust ensure that Cumbria is safe for the next 50 years and oppose nuclear developments?

Marianne BIRKBY

Wildlife artist and founder of Radiation Free Lakeland

Kenneth WILSON

Widnes

SIR – With New Year upon us, we would like to thank everyone who has supported Meningitis UK in 2012.

They are helping us fund vital research into vaccines and other preventative measures to end the heartache caused by meningitis.

We are amazed by the generosity and dedication of people in your area, especially considering the economic climate.

The year has been very positive for the fight against the disease, with licence approval for a Meningitis B vaccine – the most common form of meningitis in the UK – due in early 2013.

However, there is still much work to do.

In the absence of vaccines and other preventative measures, we distribute awareness materials highlighting the symptoms and need to act quickly.

For a free symptoms pack or more information, call Meningitis UK on 0117 947 6320 or visit www.meningitisUK.org.

Kate ROWLAND

Chief executive, Meningitis UK

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