Nobody seems to know anything

South Tyne residents worst fears realised

A panicky South Shields resident was forced to call the Fire Brigade when water started pouring through her bedroom ceiling late last night. Miss EM who rents her home in Newcastle Road from South Tyneside council says she has been dreading rainy weather since March when she first noticed the wind had blown tiles off the roof.

”Water started pouring through my daughters bedroom ceiling and we expected it all to come crashing down at any moment. It was actually bed time but instead of being able to go to bed we had to move all of my young daughters nice things downstairs to safety and put buckets under the deluge of water that had started pouring in. Our big fear was that a big puddle must be forming from all that rain and it must be getting bigger and would get into the electrics and cause a fire or explosion so I just panicked and tried to find an emergency number to call the council.”

”I couldn’t get through and seeing the water pouring in and hearing torrential rain hammering against the windows made me panic, my nerves just couldn’t take it. I have to take meds for my heart and nerves. I couldn’t think what to do when I couldn’t find anyone to talk to at the council so I called my mam who panicked and imagined the worst. She told me to ring the Fire Brigade quick.”

”You read about people being injured by falling ceilings and electrical fires burning the house down so I called the Fire Brigade before any of that happened, I couldn’t think what to do and was beside myself with fear.”

‘’I reported the missing tiles back in March and that put my mind at rest at the time. I thought they would come and do something in a week or two but my elderly Step Dad had already been without a kitchen for over a month because the council were doing something to the kitchen ceiling so I knew I would have to wait a while.’’ EM says.

‘’My dad didn’t even have a cooker while the council were working on his kitchen. He looks after his 90 year old dad and could only do sandwiches and heat expensive ready meals for the two of them in a Microwave oven because workmen had taken their cooker away when they took the ceiling down. The workmen didn’t come back or say anything for a long time but my Step dad is not one to make a fuss, he’s getting on himself but has worked hard all his life and is very proud and self sufficient. I kept telling him to hurry the council up for the sake of his 90 year old dad but he just said he didn’t want a fuss”.

”I should have hurried the council up about my roof but in my mind I thought if my Step Dad had to wait for council work to be done, what with him and his dad not being able to use their kitchen all that time, then I must be a lower priority. Water wasn’t coming in at that time and the weather was nice.’’

‘’When Autumn came I started to really worry, bad weather was just around the corner and although the council did eventually come back and finish my Step Dads Kitchen it had taken them over eight months from start to finish to do the job. That’s when I started to panic and I rang the council again’’ EM says. But the council claimed they had no record of the original complaint. ‘’I was furious, I did tell them in March and they were calling me a liar and making not knowing anything as their excuse for not doing anything”.

”I know I told my dad to hurry them up when they started his kitchen but he didn’t. He was made to wait over eight months and I thought I might have to wait that long since they now claimed to not know anything about it. Nobody knows why my dad had to wait eight months to get his kitchen back, once they start a job or you tell them repairs need doing wouldn’t you think they would just get on and do something. Why should we have to chase them up, why shouldn’t we just be able to trust them and assume they will actually do what they are supposed to do. It’s what they get paid to do, it’s their job isn’t it.’’

EM became increasingly fearful of the threat of bad weather and rang a councillor who promised he would look into the matter for her the very next day and get back to her but she heard nothing more from him.

EM says she started ringing the council regularly but they made excuse after excuse. ‘’I even withheld my rent for a few weeks to try and get them to do something but they just made threats and I felt totally powerless. It’s a horrible feeling when councils who should be helping just totally refuse to help and then threaten you. I know private landlords do it all the time and the law lets them get away with it but we pay so much in rent and council tax that you would think they would do something in return. What happens to all that money?’’.

Following the night of the deluge Miss EM rang the council at 8.30am after a very restless night of worry. Em says ‘’I rang and told them the Fire Brigade had been and gave them the reference number I was given by them the previous night but they sounded very sarcastic and said they would have to come and get rid of a tree before they could put scaffolding up. I told them the tree had been removed weeks ago and they said oh! we didn’t know about that, but the tree was the excuse they had used ages ago and it was them who got rid of it about a month ago so I don’t know how they didn’t know about it. Anyway I think when they heard the Fire Brigade had had to come out and had told me the electrics should be urgently checked in case water had gone near the wires they soon changed their tune and said someone would be out within four hours’’.

Miss EM told me the scaffolding went up, electricians came out and two workmen set about fixing the roof before dinner time. One of the workmen told her they were attending more and more jobs where people had been waiting six, seven and even nine months and when he had asked them why it had taken so long they had told him they didn’t know. The workman told miss EM she would have to have her bedroom ceiling replaced as the water had soaked into the plaster, ”you can see it sagging” she told me. ‘‘I’m just grateful Someone has finally done something but why couldn’t they do it earlier before all this happened?’’. ‘‘I don’t know’’ she says.

The council have been asked why some people have to wait many months for repairs to their council houses but so far they have not answered that question. It seems Nobody knows anything.

By Pollyanne

The Laser Clinic Morpeth.

Shining light on unwanted hair

I found The Laser Clinic Morpeth Ltd when I looked into alternatives to shaving off the dark facial hair I felt I had been cursed with. Facial hair on women is a lot more common than most people realise. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) affects 10% of women and one common symptom is growing dark facial hair which starts during puberty. Growing facial hair can lead to loss of confidence and low self esteem.

Laser hair removal, where laser light travels down the hair and burns out the follicle, was once offered to PCOS sufferers by the NHS. The treatment is still recommended but no longer funded by them.

There are very few clinics offering treatment in my area, Tyneside. I didn’t fancy Newcastle, the city isn’t car friendly. From my research I learned one side effect is redness where the Laser light had burned down to the follicle. It’s a temporary effect but I didn’t fancy walking the streets or standing at a bus stop with a red face. The clinic I chose was near Morpeth north of Newcastle. The web site said there was plenty of car parking space yards from reception. The cost of treatment seemed reasonable and I was willing to pay. I hate shaving.

My Sat Nav took me to the Laser clinic without any fuss. It is just a few miles from the A1. As I pulled into the car park I saw Susan the clinics owner, coming down the short path from the reception room to greet me. We had already messaged via Email and she had explained that a patch test would have to be done before the start of treatment. Like all cosmetic procedures there are some risks and side effects and Susan explained them to me. The risks are low and side effects temporary but everyone is different hence the need for a patch test. Susan helped me fill in forms which collected relevant medical information, and she explained what is meant by ‘informed consent’.

Susan is very friendly and personable, I felt immediately at ease. Susan has clients from as far as Bishop Auckland in the south and Jedburgh to the North. She can keep her prices down because she has low overheads and business rates are not as high as those in the city.

Susan has many clients who come to her because of unwanted hair growth due to PCOS. ‘‘I enjoy my work as a Laser Technician and get a great sense of satisfaction knowing I am helping people with their skin problems which in turn boosts clients self confidence and self esteem.’’ Susan can treat a wide range of skin complaints including thread-vein, rosacea, scar and pigmentation removal and acne scarring. Laser hair removal treatment does take multiple sessions to work effectively. Hair grows in phases. Facial hair grows then is dormant over a 4 to 8 week period and needs to be in the growing phase for the treatment to work.

I asked Susan about the beginnings of her Laser Clinic business. She told me about the stress of trying to juggle family life and a nine to five job in a Science Laboratory in nearby Morpeth. ‘‘I just felt I was not in control of my life’’ she explained. ‘‘Neil my husband was a Fire Fighter working shifts that couldn’t fit around our family life. I felt I was letting our young daughter Holly down. Organising childcare was a nightmare and having to beg for time off to see Holly on sports days and what have you was very stressful.’’

One day a work colleague told her they were having a tattoo removed, another had already told her she was having Laser Hair removal. Susan was curious and did some research. ‘‘I was looking for a way to take back control of my life. Escaping the nine to five seemed the only way so I needed to be my own boss.’’

Susan learned all she could about Laser Treatment. She contacted manufacturers and studied with Manchester University gaining the qualifications and skill necessary to operate Laser equipment effectively and safely.

‘‘Lynton, the company I bought my Laser machines from are brilliant’’ Susan told me. ‘‘I still work closely with them. I can ask for advice from one of their medical doctors if there’s something I’m not certain about and they take care of the regular servicing and calibration of my machines. I’m just so happy now I have control over my own life and It’s such a joy knowing I am able to use my Laser Technician skills to help my clients with their skin problems’’

All of Susan’s machines are NHS approved and Susan is a fully trained and qualified technician but she has had clients who have had treatment elsewhere who didn’t get the results they wanted. She told of one man who came to her for help with thread-veins. ‘‘He came to me with a low expectation of what could be done for him. His first words as he came through the door were ‘Right, I know there’s nothing you can do but I’m here so lets get on with it.’ The poor man was desperate. He couldn’t believe the result after I treated him and was over the moon. The problem is there are cheap machines on the market and they are not NHS approved so can’t be expected to produce the same level of success that more expensive machines can attain.’’

‘‘A lot of my business comes from word of mouth but when people have laser treatment from another place and don’t get the result they expect, they tell their friends and their friends think laser treatment doesn’t work. It’s such a shame because laser treatment does work and it does help people.’’

There is some discomfort during treatment I have found. Many people describe it as like being twanged with an elastic band and multiple treatment sessions will be required. I don’t mind a little discomfort. I am so glad I found Susan and her Lasers.

The Laser Clinic can be found online at
or Email for more information.

By Pollyanne

Should periodic CPC training be replaced with First aid training?

Commercial drivers must undertake 35 hours of CPC training every 5 years. The average cost to drivers who’s employer will not fund them is around £400. They have to take the course in their own time. The purpose of CPC is to make our roads safer for all users and was an EU initiative.

Driving an HGV requires us to be in possession of our driving licence, tachograph and CPC cards to prove we have undergone all the required training and are working according to the law. Perhaps for this reason the 35 hours of ongoing periodic CPC training seems to focus on the legal side of commercial driving.

HGV drivers find periodic CPC training a very emotive subject and it is fair to say most would like to see it scrapped. They view the CPC as a very expensive waste of time. At least in the present format. After all, the periodic course is the same as the initial training course and teaches nothing new. The only difference is that most drivers have had a lot of experience actually doing the job. An expensive, time consuming exercise in ‘teaching Grannies to suck eggs’.

Could the course be improved? If road safety concerns are the reason for ongoing CPC training then should it not actually focus on delivering that outcome. Most commercial drivers see ongoing CPC training as a necessary evil. Periodic CPC training is simply not value for money. So how could the course be altered to provide value for money while at the same time making our roads a safer place for all road users.

One driver, Stan who has been driving HGV class 1 vehicles since leaving the army told me he thought the course should focus on first aid. Stan was quite specific, he told me good quality first aid training could save lives. Stan explains ‘‘I was first on the scene of a nasty accident just 2 years ago and my first aid training let me deal with the situation I found myself in’’. Stan was working night-shift and saw the car ahead leave the road and go off into the trees. There were 3 seriously injured people and the police told Stan later that his actions saved lives that night. Stan learned his first aid in the army. I worked with Stan at Parkside Logistics in Birtley and have had similar experiences also working night shift.

I have been first on the scene of two accidents just 2 years apart. I was lucky as I only had to contend with minor injuries and shock. It was horrible, both accidents were on main roads but during the quietest time of day. I don’t know how I would have coped if anyone had been seriously injured or trapped. It was very traumatic just the same. My heart sank as I approached the vehicles expecting the worst. I still cry when I think back to it. According to H.S.E. the first people on the scene of an RTA are quite likely to be commercial drivers especially during the quite night hours.

Unite, the union, also have many misgivings about periodic CPC training. Unite has petitioned the government very strongly on this issue. Ray Sanderson, regional officer for Unite says ‘The CPC is a contentious issue as many drivers just don’t see it’s value. The sector has debated this at length and the view is that it does need a review and we have petitioned government very hard on this.’’

Ray outlined Unites demands.

To make the CPC more relevant to the job the driver does, not just generic topics.

There should be no repeating of modules.

Modules should be done on an annual basis rather than wait until the end of the 5 year period and cram all 5 in.

The CPC should move to a more accredited format rather than just participation. We don’t prescribe a test or pass and fail but some form of measurement of understanding and feedback.

The CPC is a vocational standard and as such should be conducted in working time and recorded as such. Employers should also cover the actual cost of the training. In the vast majority of Unite organised companies this is already the case.

Periodic training may also be the final straw for many drivers. I left the industry in February rather than pay for the CPC which was due. There was always the worry that I would be first on the scene of an RTA again too. The worry that I might not cope next time. First aid training not only saves lives but would go a long way to save an untrained person from later feeling guilty when they reflect back on what they should have done rather than what they actually did do. Given a choice between CPC or First Aid I know what I would choose.

By Pauline Stoker

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