Alan Castle: It’s a disaster waiting to happen

IS it not time that we had some joined-up thinking between the public departments who operate in Northumberland?

The one that has drawn my attention this week is the proposal to withdraw one of two emergency ambulances at Berwick. One ambulance provides 24-hour cover, the one to be withdrawn provides 12-hour cover.

The remaining ambulance would not just cover Berwick, it will also cover part of the rural area.

As we all know, the go-ahead has just been given for a new multi-million-pound acute accident and emergency hospital close to the major roundabout on the A19.

I reckon that is close on 60 miles from Berwick.

We are told that at present the two emergency ambulances based at Berwick spent only 17 per cent of their time dealing with emergencies.

So that would mean, to my simple mind and I admit I have never been very good with figures, that if you remove one ambulance the other would be required for 34 per cent of its time for emergencies.

I am pleased that those in charge of the North East Ambulance Service are so on top of their job that they can now predict when an emergency is going to occur.

Let us look at this scenario, the one and only emergency ambulance is ploughing its way through heavy summer traffic to the present accident and emergency hospital in Ashington. All of a sudden up in Berwick two people simultaneously have a heart attack.

Don’t laugh, Berwick’s population increases dramatically in the summer with the influx of holidaymakers to two very large caravan parks.

A rare occurrence, maybe, but the chances of it happening are not out of this world. We are told that such patients need immediate attention. If they get it, their chances of recovery are increased dramatically but this does not seem to have much affect on the ambulance bosses.

What about joined-up thinking? Northumberland County Council has recently received the go-ahead to build a bypass north of Morpeth linking to a roundabout near Pegswood. That would give immediate access to the present A&E hospital at Ashington for those of us who live in the north of the county, saving taxpayers millions on the planned new A&E hospital only a few miles away and six miles from the superb Newcastle hospitals.

As one can imagine, the population of Berwick and the surrounding area, backed by MP Sir Alan Beith, are up in arms over the decision.

Once again, it would appear, if the decision goes ahead, that when it comes to cuts the rural areas seem to have to bear more than their fair share of the burden.

I READ with interest a letter in last week’s Gazette where a visitor said he could not understand why there was a ‘free car park’ in the middle of the town which did not have proper vehicle bay markings.

He also could not understand why there was a Christmas tree in the middle of it or why there were seats in inappropriate places. At first I thought it might be a wind-up but on I read.

He was of course referring to the anomaly in the parking world which is now Alnwick Market Place.

The letter writer might have observed that he passed two signs which stated entrance is for loading or unloading.

Many people are now using the Market Place parking free of charge. One might assume that councillors had decided that Alnwick should get free parking after all.

Pigs might fly before that will happen.

I wonder, however, in the coming months how many people will not renew their parking permits or are even now are not paying the hourly charges and heading for the Market Place.

The loss of revenue must be considerable and unfair on those who have such permits

Can they ask for a refund?