Watchdog will need some more teeth

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From: Dr Robert Heys, Bar Lane, Ripponden, Halifax.

APROPOS news that the failing health service watchdog Links is to be replaced by the hopefully more effective Healthwatch, branches of which are to be established in health authorities nationwide.

If this organisation is to succeed, it is essential that the information necessary to enable Healthwatch members to assess and, if indicated, criticise and demand improvements in their local health services is readily available.

In my experience as chair of the local Public Involvement in Health Forum, which preceded Links, this has not, despite regulations requiring it, been the case. Requests for such information (which NHS Trusts and council social services are statutorily required to compile) often being ignored or provided incomplete after lengthy delays.

The relevant information includes statistics on the number, nature and cost of settling complaints made against trusts and other providers, the length of hospital waiting lists, the number of patients who required re-admission within 28 days of treatment and the incidence of undue delays between appointment times and seeing a consultant.

Death rates associated with surgical and medical treatments, peri-natal maternity figures suicide and attempted suicide rates (an important measure of mental health care and social services standards) are also essential requirements, as are the number of fissure sores arising in hospital and community care, a key indicator of nursing care of the elderly, which the Quality Care Commission has recently criticised.

I believe it should be mandatory that such statistics are promptly, as and when compiled, sent to local Healthwatches. It is also essential that membership of Healthwatch committees be truly representative of the community concerned; its meetings publicised and open to the public and press and its composition not influenced by service providers, which was not in my experience the case with Links.

From: John GK Wildie, Briar Grove, Sandal, Wakefield.

WITH reference to the proposals to shut down the Accident and Emergency at the new hospital at Pontefract over weekends to save £3.8m with the work being shared out between Pinderfields and Dewsbury hospitals, this is ridiculous.

Pinderfields cannot cope now; it would cause more disruption with patients waiting in chairs or trolleys in the corridors before finally being seen by a doctor or even moved to wards.

I understand also that the MPs Yvette Cooper and Jon Trickett are furious and I am not surprised. I thought that this idea may be on the cards before the last General Election when the Labour Party were in power.

Now Mr Cameron and the Tory party have jumped on the bandwagon to help with the cuts.

Misplaced enthusiasm

From: V Wood, Wharfedale Crescent, Garforth, Leeds.

YOUR Editorial approval (“Spark of genius”, Yorkshire Post, October 15) of the competition-winning design of electricity pylon is, I believe, both premature and misplaced.

While the T shaped design is certainly less intrusive to landscape, both competition organisers and winners have missed a trick by completely ignoring the opportunity to create a tower design that combines the function of power distribution pylon and wind turbine tower.

There is no evidence that such a dual-purpose tower has been proposed by the 250 entrants, yet research into the project is being pursued in France, Scandinavia and of course, the US.

Several august bodies were involved in promoting the design competition, but it seems that consideration of wind turbine potential has been ignored.

From: Ian Ingham, Granny Hall Lane, Brighouse.

IN Chris Bond’s article about gas and electricity bills (Yorkshire Post, October 19), it is stated that the standing charge has been dropped. Not by all companies.

My supplier still has a standing charge on my online account and the annual charges are currently £76.90 for electricity and £157.64 for gas.

Obviously, if the account did not have this standing charge, the amounts above would be levied by the difference in cost of primary and secondary units and the number of primary units charged at the higher rate.

I’m not sure whether or not I should feel insulted by energy expert Dr Paula Owen’s statement that “it’s a perverse incentive to use more energy” to get to the lower rate but it seems to be a rather naïve comment.

Broker proves to be best

From: John Halkon, Hermitage Court, Richmond.

I AGREE with John Watson (Yorkshire Post, October 19), I always use a broker for house and car insurance.

I have used a broker based in the West Midlands with branches also in the South West for home and insurance for two cars for the last 16 years.

While I may be considered for insurance purposes to be of little risk, my costs over this period have changed little.

My comprehensive insurance cost for a 4x4 has remained almost unchanged for the past two years. He is on hand to deal with any questions and will deal with any problems on my behalf should they arise. I have trawled through online, wasting my time, never getting a better price or service.

I recommend the use of a broker due to the amount of business they process, their buying power with insurance companies must be greater than the individual, and with a good broker you will always get the service.

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