OUR latest crop of readers' letters to the Advertiser include your thoughts on the Vale of Leven Hospital's out-of-hours service, the Helensburrgh waterfront project, community beach cleaning, Brexit, and more.

To have your say on any local issue, just email your views to editorial@helensburghadvertiser.co.uk – please keep your contributions as brief and to-the-point as you can, and remember to supply us with your name and address.

We also require a daytime telephone number in case we need to contact you to check any details at short notice, though this will not be published.

Happy writing!

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Jackie Baillie MSP, the former shadow health minister for Labour under the party leadership of Iain Gray and Johann Lamont, does not understand how the Scottish NHS works (Helensburgh’s MSP slams out-of-hours closures at Vale of Leven Hospital, Helensburgh Advertiser January 31).

But then Labour doesn’t understand much about anything under Jeremy Corbyn and his northern acolyte Richard Leonard. So ignorance on health issues is par for the course.

Ms Baillie has revealed with shock and horror that the Vale out-of-hours NHS service was closed for 85 days last year.

It should be closed permanently. It is a waste of taxpayers’ money.

The British Medical Association (BMA) is the doctors’ union. It has done a remarkable job in ‘featherbedding’ the jobs of Scottish doctors.

In 2017, GPs at local surgeries had average patient contact hours totalling 14.5 hours for a salary of £90,000 per annum.

In January 2018, the BMA negotiated a better deal with the Scottish Government. GPs are now required to work less, get paid more, get more professional support and have no personal or professional risk in owning and managing local GP practices.

With the freed time, GPs are now encouraged to take on second or third jobs to pay the bills.

We have had a spell of cold weather. NHS resources are stretched at this time of year. There will be a series of stories in the media about the imminent collapse of the NHS. It is about as predictable as the spring false pregnancy of the Edinburgh panda.

This is the result of the skilled work of media specialists with simple goals. Protect union members’ jobs and wages, or get more punters through the gates of Edinburgh Zoo.

The NHS out-of-hours service was set up to deal with patients unable to get appointments at their local surgery. And who will they see if they travel to the Vale out-of-hours? Why, a local GP, on his or her second or third job.

The patient assessment unit at the Vale is open 24/7. Emergency medical care is available in the community. The medical staff in the patient assessment unit do not trust the work of your local GP, or of the GP in the NHS out-of-hours service in the Vale, and you will be assessed again by a second or third medical professional.

The system is badly flawed and needs urgent reform. But our politicians must understand the nature of the problem before they can act to fix it.

Since GPs work limited hours in your local surgery, there is a risk that you will not be able to make an appointment at the most convenient place for you.

If you are forced to travel to the Vale by car, taxi, bus, train or plane, you take a number and wait in line. If the unit is closed, you may be redirected to the nearest available out-of-hours unit.

However, medical care is available either at the Vale patient assessment unit or by calling an ambulance. In this case, you may be taken to Paisley, to the nearest A&E department.

The required reforms are simple. Close the NHS out-of-hours service and redirect the resources to local GP surgeries. This would open appointments for practice members to see their local GP, where they are supposed to make first contact with the NHS system.

The Vale patient assessment unit should be upgraded to A&E status. Lives have been lost because of the extra journey time to Paisley in the back of an ambulance. This is a journey which places an unnecessary strain on the patient in the vehicle, their family and the Scottish Ambulance Service.

There will be grinding of teeth at this, and the point will be made that there aren’t enough doctors in Scotland. True. There is direct evidence of political failure to properly analyse the facts, and to take the appropriate action, by successive Scottish Governments since devolution.

The European Working Time Directive of 1998 is at the root of the problem. This limited the working time of doctors. In response, you either need to make the system more productive or you need to train more doctors.

Neither has happened. Plans to increase the number of medical students at Scottish medical schools were never enacted.

This failure has been compounded by a second misjudgement by the SNP. Wads of taxpayer money are being wasted in a vain attempt to integrate health and social care.

At one time, both were efficient, effective services. Due to the austerity cuts since the financial crash of 2008, both services have suffered and neither operate in an optimal way. Integrating the two failing systems will save neither.

Why is Argyll and Bute Council lumped in with the Highlands in the Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP)? Councillor Gary Mulvaney, who sits on the integrated joint board because of his expertise in selling used cars, predicts further losses as they grapple with the impossible task.

Like Brexit, health care in Scotland is the victim, and result, of multiple political decisions over a long time period. The solution is apparent, but it will require steady political nerve and judgement.

Dr John A. Black, Woodhollow House, Helensburgh

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READ MORE: Your letters to the Advertiser - January 31, 2019

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I AM Scottish and I live in Scotland. Some time ago, while visiting my sister in England, we went out to look round one of the many interesting buildings and parks that belong to the National Trust.

Many people enjoy visiting ‘stately homes’ and other historic properties in Britain, learning more about our history. I decided to join the National Trust that day, instead of paying as a visitor yet again.

That is when I discovered – on giving my Scottish address – that the National Trust is not quite national. However, I joined, and have been paying the monthly direct debit since then.

This morning a package arrived in the post – the National Trust Spring magazine and the 2019 Handbook. I have not been too well recently but thought: “How interesting - let’s see what nice place I could go and visit.”

That is when I was reminded immediately, on the very first ‘welcome page’, that it is the National Trust for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. I had forgotten that that information had already been given to me, but I felt seriously quite depressed.

Hill House in Helensburgh is probably in the National Trust (Ed - it’s actually owned by the National Trust for Scotland) and it is in the town I live in – not that I could go today, because I am not fit enough to go out, and also I know work is being done there.

But possibly because we here in Scotland have been threatened continually with ‘independence’ from the rest of Britain, I just feel so depressed that this interesting handbook and magazine, full of such interesting information, is all about Wales, England and Northern Ireland, and the land that I live in is not included.

I bitterly regret, having lived 25 years abroad during my life, that when I came back to Britain 26 years ago, I did not settle in the south of England. I feel so cut off here – and the National Trust membership further reinforces that feeling.

Marie Muir, Helensburgh

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READ MORE: Your letters to the Advertiser - January 24, 2019

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Our MP, Brendan O’Hara, tells us (Advertiser Comment, January 31) that the Union with the United Kingdom cannot, and will not, last much longer.

Without England draining Scotland of its wealth and dragging it out of Europe, he insists, Scotland could continue to prosper within the European Union.

If I am to give his proposals serious consideration, could he advise us how the border with England would be treated, and could he guarantee that there would be no hard border – ever?

If we are to avoid an Irish border situation in Scotland, we need answers.

John Ashworth, Woodside, Helensburgh

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May I, on behalf of Helensburgh Community Council, clear up a couple of misconceptions contained in reports on the waterfront project in last week’s Advertiser?

In the first instance, Councillor Ellen Morton is reported as having said, “We [Argyll and Bute Council] had to spend quite a bit of money bringing in additional flooding expertise to assure the community council and the planning committee”.

This suggests that the council needed flooding experts merely to assuage the community’s concerns.

In fact it was the council’s own flood risk advisor who stated, just four days before the planning hearing in November, that the flood defences were only “acceptable through 2030” and that they would need to be modified after 2030 to protect the building to the end of its lifespan in 2060. This echoed the community council’s concern that we had raised in May.

As a result, Argyll and Bute Council had to increase the height of the planned sea wall by a further 0.5m in their revised submission to the planning committee in December.

The increase in height was not, as Councillor David Kinniburgh is reported as having said, to address the new climate projections. These new projections only increased the future sea level by six centimetres in 2060.

The primary issue was that the original plans as submitted in August by the council did not defend the building for its lifespan.

Dr Peter Brown (vice-convener, Helensburgh Community Council)

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READ MORE: Your letters to the Advertiser - January 17, 2019

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We came up to Arrochar about four weeks ago to try a Scottish January. As we walked the dogs around the top of the loch, we noticed the plastic waste brought in by the tides.

We said that it would be great if the community got together to clean it up...they did this weekend, and gathered over a dozen huge bags of rubbish, and the difference yesterday afternoon was amazing!

They should be proud of their efforts and deserve mention in your publication.

Jon and Cindy Simkin, Lancashire