LETTERS: Comet July 11

THE letters in the Comet on Thursday, July 11.

SKILLED SURGEON IS GOOD FOR LISTER

SIR - After reading the article concerning the published NHS Trust surgical death rates, where Mr Selvakumar appears to have been unfairly singled out, it highlights how stupid and pointless these type of statistics are when presented in isolation, which Nick Carver pointed out.

From a patient’s point of view, I can only express my admiration, and appreciation for Mr Selvakumar and his team. He has operated on me twice successfully, and I was very lucky, as he was one of only two surgeons in the country who was able to perform one of the surgical procedures.

He is a superb asset to the NHS.


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BARRY BRANT

Stevenage

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NHC TRUSTS SURGEONS

SIR - Report lists death rate of NHS Trust surgeons, the Comet, July 4 2013

Concerning abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) death rates for individual surgeons, we write in support of our colleague Mr Selvakumar, consultant vascular surgeon at the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust.

We were both fortunate to have been trained by him before being appointed consultants ourselves. Working alongside Mr Selvakumar, we both know that he is an extremely competent and skilled vascular surgeon who is dedicated to the welfare of all his patients. As the Trust’s senior vascular surgeon, Mr Selvakumar is often referred the most complex and high-risk patients – for example those requiring resection of a kidney cancer as a joint procedure.

Detailed analysis of the mortality data published last week shows that Mr Selvakumar has the fourth largest series of open AAA repair in the UK. This procedure has an accepted slightly higher initial (30-day) mortality rate than endovascular repair (EVAR), but within time, i.e. two years, the mortality rates for both procedures equal out.

Indeed Mr Selvakumar’s mortality rate drops to 3.1 per cent - i.e. well below the national target – when his patients have their complex co-morbidities included into his rating calculation. What is more, the data published last week does not include those undergoing emergency surgery because their aneurysm has burst already. For this group of patients, whose lives are literally in the hands of their surgeon, Mr Selvakumar’s survival rate is some 80 per cent - which is among the best in the country.

If the Hertfordshire population is able to read this further explanation into data interpretation, then we hope future patients would feel privileged to have him as their surgeon – as we are to have him as our senior colleague.

The national release of surgical outcome data only emphasises how complicated it can be to interpret; the public must be cautious, therefore, when reading such outcome data for other future surgical specialities.

MR MIKE GUEST

MR MATT METCALFE

Consultant Vascular Surgeons

East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust

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SIR - Your July 4 news item, “Report lists death rates of NHS Trust surgeons”, may alarm patients unnecessarily. Surgical statistics are notoriously difficult to compile and often misleading.

Mr Selvakumar, senior vascular surgeon at the Lister Hospital, has developed a first class department. He is highly experienced and is prepared to give poor-risk patients with complex vascular problems a chance of survival.

I have recommended him to several people including a former consultant colleague and they have all had good results from their operations. If I had a vascular problem I would be very happy for him to look after me.

ROGER H ARMOUR

Retired consultant surgeon

Wymondley Road

Hitchin

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BIN DELIVERS

SIR - In response to Mrs Chambers’ letter entitled “Bin Changes” in Comet edition of July 4, 2013, and as a resident of Haymoor, I would like to explain that my household certainly does not have a large purple wheelie bin. As far as I am aware my neighbours also have the standard 180 litre purple bins.

I would also like to refute that Haymoor is predominantly occupied by elderly or single occupants. If I count 12 houses down the road there are five families with children school age or younger, only one single occupant and the rest of households are couples or families with older children.

I would like to commend the council for asking people to take a fair amount of time to adjust to the new arrangements before issuing larger bins. My two person household only fills the new purple bin about a quarter full because so much of our waste is now composted or recycled. We also make efforts to reduce the amount of waste produced. If we all think about the ultimate end for the products we buy we will have a slightly smaller impact on the planet we are handing down to the generations to follow. I see that Mrs Chambers’ family does not currently fulfil the criteria for a larger purple bin which are clearly stated as more than six residents or more than three children under 36 months.

NAME AND ADDRESS

SUPPLIED

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MEDIC SPEED

SIR - While I have every sympathy with Natalie Frost at her frustration over the length of time it took for an ambulance to arrive when her son had a seizure at Knebworth Park, I feel that I must put the side of the paramedics as my daughter is one, and loves what she does.

They are all very dedicated and usually work 12 hour shifts, rarely finishing on time - my daughter regularly works a 13-14 hour shift day or night. During all of that time they only get one 30 minute break which has to be taken wherever they happen to be when they are told they may take their break.

Usually once the shift has started, they do not get back to the ambulance station until the end of their shift. The paramedics on their break at the time of Natalie’s call will have been unaware that she was waiting for an ambulance as the decision on the priority of calls is taken by the control centre.

If they were aware, and it was a real life and death situation, then of course they would have cut short their already very short break to attend because that is the nature of the attitude of paramedics. I see in the report that a car did arrive and that Charlie came out of his seizure within 30 seconds. I assume Charlie’s parents arrived at Knebworth by car, and would have thought the most sensible thing to do in view of the wait would have been to take him straight to hospital in their own car or a taxi.

NAME AND ADDRESS

SUPPLIED

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WASTE WORRY

SIR - Once again elected so called representatives are busy shooting themselves in the foot while continuing to try and spoil our once beautiful town.

It seems that they are more concerned in the interests of and representing the recyling industry than the people living in Hitchin.

Proposed plans for new recycling sites in the town will bring even more vehicles through the town to join the existing daily cavalcade of “recycling trucks.”

County councillor for planning Richard Thake who famously said in 2007, ”Planning decisions must be taken…..not necessarily in accordance with the wishes of local people”, is of Hitchin but obviously not for Hitchin.

Perhaps that is why he is not a Hitchin councillor. I certainly can’t see him proposing these sites in his Knebworth and Codicote area.

The proposals for the site in Cadwell Lane include a transfer station, [lots more trucks to and fro] composting, waste treatment and burning. This would heap even more misery on us locals.

One of the other sites, Benslow Lane is jammed with traffic most of the time as it is.

Using Burymead road would merely draw more traffic through the town.

Is anyone aware of the “several public consultations” which have taken place? If so, what happened?

There is to be a public examination of the plans later this year.

It would be a very good idea if the apathetic residents of Hitchin could get involved and try to get our voices heard.

I notice that the Cambridge rail link is now finished but there is no sign of the “proposed” link road to the industrial estate. It would be good if our so called representatives applied themselves to making it become a reality before Hitchin finally chokes on the volume of traffic it has to endure.

NAME AND ADDRESS

SUPPLIED

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FINE CRIME

SIR - I have recently received a parking charge notice from Parking Eye who manage the Roaring Meg car park. I overstayed the three hour maximum stay, although I was on site and using the facilities at the time. I did not see any of the signs notifying this stipulation.

When entering the car park from Six Hills Way, the one sign at the entrance is not visible to a car driver who is focusing on their driving. There are then two signs on the left hand side of the road, again not easily visible to a driver. If you then turn right, then left and park opposite Costa Coffee (which I frequently do) there are no signs at all in that area. I have spoken to Costa Coffee and they have asked Parking Eye if they can display the parking restrictions in their shop, but have been refused permission. Myself and several colleagues, who work at a local primary school, have received this notice.

We are all appealing against the charge, but it is being made very difficult and I would go so far as to say that Parking Eye are obstructing our appeal by not being forthright in what information they require. There is also a lot of re-enforcement to pay the discounted amount offered of £60, even going so far to say that, if you appeal to POPLA and are unsuccessful, you will have to pay the full amount of £100.

I think it is a real shame that companies such as this are able to operate in this way. It has certainly put me off visiting this particular car park again. Are you aware of other people who have been caught out in this way and believe the signage is inadequate?

NAME AND ADDRESS

SUPPLIED

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NO FAIR PLAY IN CAR PARK SOLUTION FOR SCHOOL

SIR - Whatever happened to the British sense of fair play? The critics of the expansion of Samuel Lucas school are now up in arms over parking and crying foul, again.

They are nothing but sore losers. Having lost the argument over expansion of the only “outstanding” school in west Hitchin, they are now warning of parking chaos from September. For the record, we are talking about 30 extra pupils at the start of the school year in September, more than half of whom will walk daily to their neighbourhood school.

So maybe 10 extra cars will drop off at a school which has seen not one child involved in an accident outside its gates in 40 years. And this means chaos? Pull the other one, please.

For former Tory councillor Robin Dartington and present Tory rural councillor David Barnard, this scaremongering is merely a belated attempt to get a replay to a match they have already lost. Delay means another chance to try and scupper the whole scheme. The latest park and stride issue is merely a red herring.

They and Chris Parker, who lives in Purwell and does not represent local residents, should withdraw gracefully and maintain a dignified silence. That will allow the rest of us to focus on the real issue here; the best possible education of neighbourhood children at their local school.

TOM CONDON

West Hill

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HITCHIN

SIR - Re the letter ‘car fiasco’.

I was horrified to read that due to building work being planned at Samuel Lucas school that parents would have to park for free in the Lairage multi-storey car park and then escort their children for a massive six minute walk to the school. This is without doubt nearing cruelty to children. Have the councillors no feelings. Have they not considered parents and children will have to make a return journey as well. This amounts to an outrageous 12 minutes walking every day. I demand that the school building design is revised to include front doors wide enough to allow parents to drive their cars into the assembly hall for the drop off.

JOHN LEE

Keats Close

Stevenage

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SIR - I read with astonishment your front page splash concerning opposition to NHDC’s park and stride scheme. A sensible solution to allay the fears of some local residents regarding potential traffic congestion outside Samuel Lucas school following its forthcoming expansion by offering free parking in a nearby car park is met with complaints from one of those very residents.

Please make your mind up about what you object to Mr Dartington. One minute you complain about the potential risk to child safety then you are angered by a couple of hours free parking for a few parents wanting to drop their children off at school, safely with the minimum of fuss? Or is your objection actually with NHDC prioritising the need of our children’s local education over your changing priorities? As for Mr Parker, what has this got to do with Keep Hitchin Special? Perhaps you should consider a change of name for your cause to ‘Keep Hitchin Spiteful’. Maybe Sainsbury’s should be your next target for daring to offer shoppers 30 minutes free parking when others have to pay elsewhere. Or perhaps Waitrose for their lackadaisical attitude to manning their car parking booth, allowing free, yes disgustingly free parking to people, real people and their kids, meh.

GUY WISEMAN

Moormead Close

Hitchin

LIGHT WORK

SIR - In a very interesting article in the Comet last week, Matthew Kelley - the divisional manager of Ringway, working on behalf of Hertfordshire County Council said with great authority: “There are no meters on streetlights, so the council doesn’t pay any extra for lights being on when they shouldn’t.”

If this is the case, can the Comet please find out why the council are switching off our streetlights at night time and telling us that this is to save money?

Brian Smith

Sweyns Mead

Stevenage

CLEAN SWEEP

SIR - J Warner asks why we provide residents with various containers for sorting their recycling, but road sweepers in Letchworth do not recycle what they collect (letters, Comet June 27).

I think the first point to make is that people are not obliged to recycle anything. I firmly believe, however, that the vast majority of people in North Herts do want to recycle as much as possible, and our new service helps them to do that.

The fact that so many people are getting in touch to ask us what goes in which bin, why we cannot accept plastic bags in the mixed recycling bin, along with many other questions, shows that people really want to help us ensure that as little as possible goes to landfill. As far as our street cleaners are concerned, they have to be able to transport their containers over long distances throughout the day, and it is far less practical to have various different bins to move around. Also they cannot always be certain about whether the material they find is recyclable without further inspection. Again, that is not practical when they are already working hard to pick up as much litter as possible.

It would be great if our street cleaners did not have so much work to do. We provide a lot of bins throughout Letchworth (as with other towns in the area), including recycling bins so that people can choose to recycle when they are out and about in the town. These have proved very popular since they were installed, and I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone in North Herts who is helping us to recycle more.

CLLR PETER BURT

Portfolio Holder for Waste,

Recycling and Environment

North Herts District Council

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NET CHANCE

SIR - Now that Andy Murray has won at Wimbledon, I bet there are lots of people who would love to go out and play tennis. They used to be able to play at King George’s, but sadly that’s not possible now because the tennis courts have been left to rot.

What better time than now to get those tennis courts back into use? Maybe advice and possibly some funding could be obtained from the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) and Tennis for Free (TFF). Maybe our own sports celebrity Lewis Hamilton could be asked to help. And then maybe Stevenage could produce another Andy Murray.

If we don’t do something now about those tennis courts, we will wake up one day and find a block of overpriced, poorly designed flats in their place.

ELIZABETH STURGES

Fairview Road

Stevenage

POOR COUNCIL

SIR - Is Councillor Parker the only councillor on the Hertfordshire County Council that has the intelligence and sense when he rightly asks “what is the point of the traffic message boards”?

I have just read the piece in the Comet regarding the “traffic message” signs that have been installed at vast expense (£200,000). In my experience the signs are either not displaying any message at all or a trite message such as “Don’t drink and drive” of which, I think we are probably all aware. Apart from the waste of taxpayers cash the signs are a distraction and are essentially useless.

I, like so many other residents of Stevenage, frankly despair of the waste of money and the sheer profligate nature of the Hertfordshire County Council on ludicrous road schemes. So many serious aspects in Stevenage and surrounding areas require real attention and money spent on them but appear to be totally disregarded by the council.

DR JOHN M. BUDD

Chells Way

Stevenage

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MORE MUST BE DONE TO PROTECT GREEN BELT ANND FORSTER COUNTRY

SIR - I write regarding SBC’s proposed housing targets to 2031 and their dilemma as to whether it is appropriate to “roll back the green belt” to accommodate housing. I believe it is not.

It clearly states in the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) of March 2012 that local councils should “Protect Green Belt and only alter them in exceptional circumstances”. I do not believe that planning for future expansion conforms to “exceptional circumstances”, particularly when such expansion is disproportionate to the size of the existing settlement. To the north of Stevenage is Forster Country which comprises of all the green belt within SBC’s boundary to well beyond Graveley and Chesfield within North Herts. Forster Country is an internationally recognised literary and cultural heritage site, a site that Stevenage is privileged to have within its administration. This site owes much to EM Forster who lived at Rooks Nest House, the setting for the world renowned novel ‘Howard’s End’. Indeed when development threatened to destroy this area in the 1940’s Forster commented in a BBC broadcast, “I was brought up as a boy in a district...which I still think the loveliest in England”. Following a Public Inquiry in 1994, the whole of Forster Country was deemed to be protected within the green belt.

Within Forster Country are two significant walking trails. Wildlife in Forster Country includes the beautiful skylark, surely, SBC and North Herts have a responsibility to protect this whole area from development. Development of this important swathe of greenbelt would be absolutely detrimental. Come on SBC, protect this land for the people of Stevenage; there are other sites that can be developed which would not have such a devastating impact on our environment.

NAME AND ADDRESS

SUPPLIED

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HOUSING OPTIONS GROWTH LEVELS

SIR - Earlier this year NHDC consulted on the “Housing Options Growth Levels and Locations 2011 – 2031” paper. This included a large strategic site to the south west of Hitchin. The Council have now issued a new paper including a further 32 sites part of which details a revision of the site to the south west of Hitchin. The consultation period for this ‘Housing Additional Location Options’ paper will run from Friday 5th July through to Friday 2nd August 2013.

It is essential that as many people as possible respond to the consultation as failure to do so may be taken as an indication of acceptance of this revised plan for the south west of Hitchin. In fact the new proposals do nothing to address the many objections that have already been posted regarding impact on traffic congestion in Hitchin, lack of infrastructure including transport, negative environmental impact especially around the flood plain and the water supply from the River Hiz.

Others have also highlighted the area as the lungs of Hitchin and the need to retain farmland for food production. Moreover, this is Green Belt land including the conservation area around Charlton, which offers huge recreational opportunities for local people and visitors, especially walking, bird watching and cycling.

These points are in addition to the fundamental argument that the whole consultation is seriously flawed in that it is developer driven and not a strategic initiative from NHDC. It is also important to understand that the revised plan for the south west of Hitchin is not a substitute for the original plan and the latter may still be pursued as the preferred option as it includes the promise of a new bypass.

I urge everyone to respond to this new consultation either through the web page www.north-herts.gov.uk/housingoptions, or send your comments electronically to localplans@north-herts.gov.uk or by post to Strategic Planning and Projects Group, North Hertfordshire District Council, PO Box 480, M33 0DE.

As the Hitchin Society have so aptly remarked ‘this is without doubt the wrong scheme in the absolutely the wrong place’.

JOHN PEARCE

Charlton Neighbourhood Forum

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CLEAR POLICY ON BINS

SIR - In response to Laura Chamber’s letter last week regarding a request for a larger purple bin, I would like to clarify the Council’s policy on this matter.

If you have six or more permanent and full-time residents in your household, or two or more children under the age of 36 months in nappies then you may be eligible for a larger purple bin for your household waste. Details of the application process can be found on our website. We will only start accepting applications for a larger bin after your household has had the new waste and recycling service for a full month. This is to ensure that you try the new service first to see if a larger bin is still required. All households requesting a larger bin will be visited initially by a member of our waste team to assess whether they are recycling everything they can.

A member of the team will be in touch with Mrs Chambers to assess how we can help her manage her waste and I can assure her that no residents (including those on Haymoor) will receive a larger purple bin without having gone through the application process first. With increased opportunities to recycle at the kerbside we anticipate that the numbers of people actually needing a larger purple bin will decrease. In fact we have already had several people contact us to ask if they can have an even smaller purple bin than the standard one issued to all households.

CLLR PETER BURT

NHDC Portfolio Holder for Waste and Recycling

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SUPPORT FOR EU BILL

SIR - Councillor Andrew Young exhorts us all to back the Conservative Party because a private Members bill (not an official Government measure) is attempting to establish a legally binding commitment to an EU referendum in the year 2017. However, what Mr Young fails to make clear is that Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron promised us a “cast iron” referendum before the last election but then somehow just forgot about it and has continually stressed how good he thinks it is for us to be in the EU.

The real reason behind this private Member’s bill is the huge amount of support which UKIP is amassing throughout the country. UKIP believes Britain must leave the EU and has now become the third largest party in British politics. Cameron and his Conservatives are running scared of UKIP and this ploy, a device to enable a referendum in four years time clearly demonstrates their fear. Furthermore in 2017 new rules come into effect in the EU itself which might make it impossible for member states actually to have an in or out referendum.

The only party which is honestly fighting for a referendum and for the people of this country to decide their own future is UKIP. Four years is far too long to wait. We had a speedy referendum on Alternative Voting to appease Nick Clegg. If Cameron were sincere, he would give us a referendum on the EU before the next election – but we know he isn’t.

ADRIANNE SMYTH

Todds Green

Stevenage

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CHEERS FOR ROAD REPAIR

SIR - Further to my recent letter regarding the curious way the local council’s highways department and their decisions on road repairs in Letchworth, specifically the top of Bedford Road, I noticed to my great surprise and delight, that the section of road in question has been repaired to a very high standard. I now applaud the local council and highways department for their speedy reaction.

MURRAY WALTON

Address supplied

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THERES A BIN CINFUSION

SIR - I am writing to tell you how pleased I am with the new refuse bin system. I have long wanted to be part of a mass experiment and I cannot think of a more appropriate test. I am now, like Pavlov’s dogs, challenged to associate different kinds of detritus with a number of different colours before I get accepted.

Unfortunately I am sadly behind the progress of Pavlov’s pooches by already failing one test.

I did not have a bin emptied because I had put a plastic bag in a bin designated for “plastic” products? Apparently plastic bags now have to be in another bin altogether.

The blue and black boxes have also changed use just to test my intellectual ability. But the purple bin (apart from being a horrible clash to my horticultural efforts) is an enigma in itself. It is apparently for “other products” and this has left my imagination a lot of room in which to expand. I am sadly, like a lot of Pavlov’s ill equipped canines, failing to comprehend the instructions and shall not be wagging my tail in the near future.

BRIAN MORGAN

Ridge Road

Letchworth Garden City

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