Maternity unit staff have been let down by the trust
Having been involved with the campaign to save Berwick Maternity Unit since its inception, I would like to help clarify a point that was stated at the recent public meeting.
Claire Riley, director of communications for Northumbria NHS Foundation Trust, informed the meeting that she had discussed the closure of the unit with the staff that day (Thursday 25th) and the staff felt they had been portrayed negatively in the press, and in online forums.
In the last three months, whilst compiling questions, collating local opinions, and carrying out internet research, I have found it extremely rare for local women to have negative comments about the staff at Berwick Maternity Unit.
In fact, quite the reverse can be witnessed from the many glowing testimonies given to staff, and the unit in general, by the many local mothers who have been grateful to have this much needed facility on their doorsteps.
As I stated at the public meeting, I feel that the refusal of the NHS Trust to engage fully and honestly with the press and public has led to a situation where, with the lack of official comment, we have pretty much had to fill in the blanks ourselves.
Furthermore, official comments have been far more damning than any comments made locally. The various comments reported from directors of the NHS Trust have given a false portrayal that the Berwick midwives are not sufficiently trained or experienced to carry out their role, to the point that it has become dangerous to keep the unit open.
This dis-information has been backed up by the fact that similar-sized units at Alnwick and Hexham have remained open, with Alnwick being the default setting for Berwick mothers’ post-natal care. What extra training do they receive, I wonder?
Speaking of training, if the medical director, David Evans, had been aware of the situation at BMU for some time, why was a programme of training not devised by the management to ensure standards did not fall to such an unacceptable level?
The truth is, the directors of the NHS Trust are prepared to let the midwives become the sacrificial lambs, safe in the knowledge that they cannot speak out in their own defence for fear of their jobs.
The public meeting was the first of many occasions which will come in the months to follow, for Berwickers to show the strength of feeling we have to retain and improve medical facilities in the town.
We must get this right, before a brick is laid on the new hospital, otherwise we will be shackling future generations of Berwickers with a ‘white elephant’ of a hospital with no services.
Eastern Lane, Berwick
Cars must be allowed to park next to the Stanks
The idea of stopping cars parking alongside Berwick Bowling Club and Stanks football pitch is a very bad one.
I totally agree with councillor Jim Smith who mentions the effect of the decision on both the bowling club and charities cup football.
I am a big supporter of the Charities Cup and must say what a brilliant job Les Chappell and the committee have done especially this past summer, given the near impossible conditions the weather threw at them.
Many people park alongside the pitch to watch the Charities Cup football.
Also, bowlers travelling a distance to play in the many open competitions at the club would have nowhere to park so the effect on both would be extreme. The only section where parking should be prohibited is from The Cowport to the entrance to the rose garden as cars parking too close to the arch makes it almost impossible for any vehicles getting through to either side.
Berwick should take a leaf from German town’s book
There is a lot of discussion about short term parking in Marygate, but would that help rejuvenate the town centre or be part of the problem?
Several weeks ago there was a picture in this paper of Marygate. I compared that with a holiday picture taken in the centre of Staufen in Germany.
The Staufen picture is vibrant with colour even on a dull day. All the buildings look freshly painted and then there are flowers in window boxes everywhere including the bank which also has a climbing plant up its wall.
On that weekday in poor weather the place was buzzing with people. It is a pleasant place to shop, enjoy a coffee, and just stroll around.
It actually looks as if someone co-ordinated the design to make it attractive as a whole. The shop names are clear but blend with the overall appearance.
The main colour on the Berwick street is provided by large plastic shop signs, each trying to be bigger and more lurid than the next.
Judging by the activity in the centre one would get the impression that Staufen is much bigger than Berwick but the opposite is true. The Berwick population is 50 per cent bigger than Staufen. The towns are similar in many ways.
Both attract holiday-makers. The actual range and number of shops in the centre seemed similar except theirs looked more attractive and were busier.
The big difference is that their centre is a pleasant place to be. One reason for that is that in the Staufen centre there were plenty of people but no cars.
Like Berwick, they have ample parking just a couple of minutes walk from the main street but there are no cars in the centre.
There is already ample parking in Castlegate and Wallace Green only a short walk to the centre. If we could solve the problem of finding more parking near the end of Bridge Street (perhaps with two-way access over the bridge controlled by traffic-lights) then there would be access to the centre from all directions.
The area now covered by tarmac could be paved over and used for cafés, shopping booths, flower displays, and seating areas perhaps with some areas roofed over with glass.
Marygate, Hide Hill, and Bridge Street could become more like an open-air shopping mall. Quoting from the Portas report “High streets must be ready to experiment, try new things, take risks and become destinations again. They need to be spaces and places that people want to be in”.
DR B A BROWN
Lib Dems need to work with A1 campaigners
Your loyal readers will have noticed an increase in pronouncements from our MP about dualling the A1.
Whilst Sir Alan has tax payer funded staff writing press releases, the entirely voluntary team at the Dual the A1 Campaign is undertaking a massive exercise in collecting data on the economic case for dualling.
At the Conservative Conference I met ministers from the department of transport, who stressed the need for a detailed, evidence-led business case for dualling.
As a result, Dual the A1 volunteers are working on a daily basis to listen to businesses on how many more people they could employ if the road were upgraded.
It is only by presenting the economic arguments to ministers that we will have the opportunity to get a full assessment of costs prepared for the treasury to look at.
Ministers have been telling me for months that they hear nothing in Whitehall from Northumberland County Council about the need for dualling the A1.
It seems that the Lib Dem council’s priorities are elsewhere, since their three big investment projects are in the south east, including a new stretch of dual carriageway around Pegswood.
I therefore invite the County Council to show it isn’t just talking about dualling the A1, but actually lobbying Government on its vital importance.
If these Lib Dem councillors and our MP are serious about getting the A1 dualled, perhaps they could help us make some real progress, by working with the Dual the A1 campaign to gather data from businesses in Northumberland and the wider north east.
Dual the A1 campaign director