Friday, 23 December 2016

Need a GP, nurse or pharmacist over the holiday?

Morecambe Bay NHS services tell us they have been working hard alongside local and national NHS colleagues to ensure that patients who really need urgent care over the Christmas and New Year period receive the quickest possible treatment they need, and that people who can be cared for elsewhere don't have to resort to waiting in Accident and Emergency departments.

Read down for their advice on obtaining  healthcare services over Christmas and New Year for patients in both Cumbria and Lancashire or visit their seasonal information page here. (Don't forget to wash your hands!)

GP appointments:
Although some GP practices are closed over Christmas and New Year bank holidays, the NHS has been working to ensure people will still be able to access a GP appointment or pharmacist should they need one. If you need to see a GP over Christmas and New Year, contact NHS 111 who will be able to help.

You can also find your nearest GP, pharmacy or dentist at (scroll down to enter your postcode).

They wish to reassure people that if they call 111, they will be allocated an appointment should they need one.

The NHS is also encouraging  people to visit their local pharmacy for minor ailments. In most cases, this will mean they receive the advice and care they need much quicker. Pharmacists can provide instant, confidential advice and treatment for minor illnesses, without the need to make an appointment. For local pharmacy opening hours, during the Christmas and New Year period, please click on the relevant link below:

Opening times for pharmacies in North Lancashire (Lancaster, Morecambe and rural)
Opening times for pharmacies in the South Lakeland area
Opening times for pharmacies in the Furness area

A&E departments are always busy over the festive period so we need to help to keep them free for those people with serious or life-threatening injuries or illnesses. Many people don't know that there are a range of local health services available to you when you are feeling unwell.  Depending on the seriousness of your symptoms, you could get help faster and easier by using another service, and you could even save lives! You can find out more about these services and how to contact them here. 

Child Health App:
Advice for parents is also available on the free NHS child health app. The app has been developed by doctors, health visitors and pharmacists and can be downloaded from Google Play or Apple’s App Store. There is also child health information available locally developed by local GPs and paediatricians here.

For more information visit the UHMBT news website.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Lancashire is ready for stormy weather predicted over Christmas

Art: Nick Miller
Lancashire County Council says it is is fully prepared to respond to any severe weather which could hit the county over the festive period.

The Met Office has issued a yellow warning for high winds from Friday morning through to Saturday morning, with the medium-term forecast predicting further stormy conditions in the days to follow.

The county council's highway teams are on standby to deal with whatever the weather brings, and are equipped to tackle everything from downed trees blocking roads, to ice and snow, and floods.

External contractors are also available to be called upon to add to the council's manpower should they be needed.

County Councillor John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: "We're well prepared for whatever the weather holds for us over the coming days and throughout the festive period.

"Ahead of the high winds which are forecast we're ensuring that our highway teams are ready to deal with incidents such as roads being blocked by trees, as well as any other urgent repairs and maintenance that may be needed.

"We're also ready for any more wet or wintry weather which may follow this, with our teams on standby and well-equipped to keep the roads moving in the event of freezing weather, or respond to flooding if necessary.

"While the unsettled weather expected over Christmas is not expected to cause widespread problems, everyone in Lancashire will be reminded at this time of the awful Boxing Day floods which hit the county last year.

"The impact of this is still being felt directly by many people, and we are still working with partners to look at what could be done to mitigate the impact of future incidents.

"I would like to reassure everyone that, while most people are looking forward to some time off over the coming days, we'll have our eyes on the weather and be ready to deal with the impact of whatever it brings us."

• You can find out more about Lancashire County Council's preparations for winter, including updates on gritting, and what you can do to reduce the impact of flooding, at

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Local Cinema Round-Up for the 21st to 29th December 2016

For up to date local cinema links and day-by-day  listings of what's showing on local screens every week visit the Virtual-Lancaster Cinema Page. Read on for the weekly round-up, and reviews.

Three new releases make it to the cinema this week. There is drama with Collateral Beauty (12A); comedy animation in Monster Trucks (PG) and the adult comedy Why Him (15). Otherwise, there is little change to listings, with the loss of just one movie Bad Santa 2.

Science fiction remains well represented with Arrival; Passengers and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Also on offer is Fantasy from J K Rowling in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Drama is supplied with Collateral Beauty and Sully: Miracle on the Hudson. Romance comes with forbidden love in A United Kingdom and the wartime epic Allied.

Adult comedy comes with Office Christmas Party and Why Him. For more family oriented entertainment there is Ballerina; Moana; Monster Trucks; Storks and Trolls

High Culture this period comes with Bolshoi Ballet: The Nutcracker and National Theatre Encore: No Man's Land

The festive season is not complete without a classic Christmas movie, and two are on offer with It's A Wonderful Life and The Muppet Christmas Carol.

We wish you a Merry Christmas, one and all.


A United Kingdom
Director: Amma Asante
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: David Oyelowo Rosamund Pike
Based on the book 'Colour Bar' by Susan Williams, the film is a romantic drama based on the real life romance between Sir Seretse Khama, king of Botswana and Ruth Williams. Seretse and Ruth met in London, in the 1940's, fell in love and subsequently married. However the marriage was opposed by their families, the couple becoming ostracised by their friends. Governments were also involved as South Africa had recently introduced their system of apartheid and they pressured the British government with threats of economic sanctions if the marriage was allowed to go ahead. This is a fine period romance with excellent costumes, impressive cinematography and exotic backdrops. The film concentrates on the human drama faced by the couple and rather glosses over the political complexities, but it is not the worse for that. The movie has received good reviews.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Director: David Yates
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Morton, Ezra Miller, Johnny Depp, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Colin Farrell
This is a Harry Potter prequel, inspired by J K Rowling's book of the same name. The movie is set in the 1920's, where Newt Scamander is a magizoologist, collecting and studying magical creatures. He visits New Your City where several of these creatures escape from his suitcase. He collects about him a group of allies to try to recapture the beasts. However New York at this time has been under a reign of terror from the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Depp) and in the era of suspicion the creatures are believed to be responsible for an attack. Hence Percival Graves (Farrell), a director of magical secrets, declares war on Scamander and his helpers. This is a wonderful film and a fine tribute to the creativity of Rawlings. There are lots of plots, strange people and weird and wonderful beasts. The movie has received favourable reviews, but is perhaps a little darker than the Harry Potter series.

Director: Ron Clements and John Musker
Certificate: PG
Cast includes: Auli'i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson
A Walt Disney animated fantasy adventure. Moana (Cravalho) is the teenage daughter of the chief of a Polynesian island. However the fish and island produce become less abundant and hence Moana undertakes a nautical quest to find the magical amulet Te Fiti's heart and the demigod Maui (Johnson). The quest involves monsters and battles This is a magical film, with music, comedy and a good dose of adventure. It is extremely well produced and has received excellent reviews from both critics and audience. A must see movie for all ages.

Director: Morten Tyldum
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt
The rocket 'Starship Avalon' is on a 120 year voyage from earth to the colony planet Homestead II, transporting over 5000 people who are travelling in hibernation pods is a state of suspended animation. However two of the pods open prematurely releasing their occupants while they are still 90 years from their destination. These are journalist Aurora Dunn (Lawrence) and mechanical engineer Jim Preston (Pratt). They are drawn to each other and romance blossoms. However they need to understand the apparent malfunction that released them early from their hibernation and decide how to respond to their plight. They discover that the pods are not the only problem and the spaceship and its entire cargo is in jeopardy. This is a science fiction movie with a good helpings of romance, suspense and action. An entertaining movie.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Director: Gareth Edwards
Certificate: PG
Cast includes: Diego Luna, Mads Mikkelsen, Felicity Jones
This movie is set just before the events of the original Star Wars. There are rumours circulating that the Galactic Empire are about to construct a horrendous new weapon, a 'Death Star' designed by Galen Erso (Mikkelson) A small team of rebels led by his daughter Jyn Erso (Jones) and Cassian Ander (Luna) strive to find the designer and steal the design schematics. The movie hosts new and familiar aliens who strive to 'use the force' and it comes with breathtaking special effects. This is more gritty that the familiar star wars offering, more of a war move with a higher body count and more muddied ethics. The movie has been well received and will delight audiences. It breaks new ground from the classic Star Wars, but only just.

Director: Nicholas Stoller, Doug Sweetland
Certificate: U
Cast Includes: Kelsey Grammer, Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Anton Starkman
Conerstone used to be in the business of delivering babies and most of its employees are stalks. However CEO stalk Hunter (Grammer) discontinued the service for the more lucrative business of delivering parcels. The business receives a letter from Nate (Starkman) a neglected boy who wants a baby brother and Tulip (Crown), a woman working for Cornerstone, causes the baby machine to create a girl in response to the letter. Now Tulip and her stork friend Junior (Samberg) must deliver the baby before Hunter finds out. This involves their facing a pack of wolves, militant penguins and an avalanche. This is a bizarre, non stop and fun packed movie that will appeal to all ages. It has been well received by the critics and is sure to please.

County Council announces £500k extra funding to ease Winter pressures on Lancs Hospitals

Lancashire County Council has announced that it will make up to £500,000 available to ease winter pressure pressures on Lancashire's hospitals.

A social care team will survey Lancashire's hospitals on a regular basis to identify immediate actions that can speed up the discharges of patients from hospital. Where these actions require additional funding the £500,000 contingency will ensure money is immediately available.

The contingency fund is part of a raft of measures introduced by the county council to tackle winter pressures, including:

• Increased staff capacity over Christmas and the New Year to ensure that there are social work staff on site at hospitals every day through the festive period.
• Restricted annual leave across hospital and community teams to ensure 80% of available staff are in work from 1 December to 31 January 2017.
• An additional 20 occupational therapists are being recruited to enable more timely assessments and enable people to remain more independent in their own homes.
• An additional 300 hours of crisis domiciliary care support will also be commissioned to provide extra capacity.
• Additional care navigation hours will be arranged to help find appropriate places in residential care, ensuring an efficient flow of people through the care system.

The county council's senior managers will continue to work very closely with health colleagues to provide resources where they are most needed and can be most effective for people.

County Councillor Tony Martin, Cabinet Member for Adult and Community Services, said: "There are serious pressures on the health and social care system across the country and we face the same pressures here in Lancashire.

"It's a measure of how seriously we take this issue that we have identified this funding at a time when the county council is facing an unprecedented financial challenge.

"I am committed to doing all we can for our frail elderly citizens over the winter months

"For the longer term we are working very hard on how we can manage future demand, as we face reducing budgets and rising costs.

"We are fully committed to working with colleagues in the Trusts and the Clinical Commissioning Groups to try and ease pressures and keep the system running through the rest of the winter."

County has had to find £300million in savings by 2020, representing around a 65% budget cut. But it is likely that this timely allocation, although it must spread thinly across the whole of Lancashire, will result in savings overall, not only in helping to increase hospital capacity for appropriate use, but also in the enormous relief these services will bring to distressed and frail people, who can deteriorate very quickly in hospital and who need responsive strategic care and rehabilitation to get back to their lives while they can.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Morecambe's West-End feels lighter after clean-up shifts 18 tons of waste

Eighteen tonnes of waste – equivalent in weight to two T.Rexes – was collected in a cleanup in the West End of Morecambe over the last weekend in November.

West End Million joined forces with Adactus Housing Group, who have properties in the area, to tidy up the streets and alleyways in and around Clarendon, Westminster, Marlborough and West End Roads over two days.

Local residents have complained for years about the overwhelming build-up of abandoned junk and rubbish in the area, as a hazard to children and as a generally depressing eyesore. With council budgets cut to the bone, this project, coming as it does with partnership funding and human volunteers from Adactus too, is especially welcome and needed.

This pilot event was organised by David Holme of Adactus, who joint funded it together with West End Million, and volunteers Pat Williamson and Elizabeth Das.

To put some muscle into the clean-up, skips were placed at the end of each road for residents to use and Adactus staff and volunteers helped out.

The cleanup was also a learning curve in preparation for a much larger event next Spring to involve even more streets in the West End.

Simon Das of  the West End Million Partnership, said: “This pilot project went really well. We had great support from local people and the skips were obviously well used. We are looking forward to improving the event for next Spring, ensuring we can expand the project to make a bigger lasting difference to the West End.”

Improving housing and the general environment of the area is one of West End Million’s main priorities. They would welcome more volunteers to suggest ideas and help to organise the Spring clean-up. Anyone interested should visit and see the housing section for contact details.

A West End alleyway
before and after the clean-up
West End Million was formed after the West End of Morecambe was awarded £1 million of National Lottery money from the Big Local project (administered by Local Trust) in 2012 to invest in improvements for all residents over 10 years. Local people decide where the money is spent.

Adactus Housing Association Group states on its website that one of its goals is: “To make a difference in neighbourhoods by levering in resources and helping to focus community activity.”
This project is definitely making a difference.

Lancaster Canal Restoration work steams ahead

Work on Lancaster Canal's disused Northern Reaches, back in September

(Updated 2nd February 2017): Volunteers for Friends of Lancaster Canal continued work on the disused section of its Northern Reaches over the weekend, which began back in September.

Despite the foggy weather, volunteers from all corners of the North West turned up to continue clearing the canal bed of self seeded and invasive species on the disused sections.

Said co-ordinator Colin Ogden: “It is pleasant to see volunteers from such varied and different groups working together under one banner."
Larkrigg Hall Bridge, near Kendal
"Lancaster Canal Trust have staked their claim to restoring Horse Park Bridge, and we welcome this. Meanwhile, we maintain all energies and money should start at Tewitfield, but listed buildings are part of our heritage and need saving.”

Colin is investigating further listed buildings and bridges on the Lancaster Canal, after the successful restoration of bridge 180.

Close co-operation of land owners and organisations is always a priority when work like this is done,  and extensive nature studies have been conducted.

UPDATE, 2nd February 2017: Two lots of work have taken place on the Northern Reaches of Lancaster Canal since September 2016, one organised by Colin Ogden. There would appear to be an issue as regards the quality of some work undertaken from other volunteers who have contacted virtual-lancaster.

There also seems to be an issue as regards who was actually involved in the December work party; and, further, some considerable disgruntlement between different volunteer groups working on the canal's restoration. While comments are of course, welcome, we do have to consider potential defamation issues, which is why this blog moderates its comments, no matter the accuracy of claims made.

It is our understanding that contrary to an earlier version of this item, Mr Ogden is not the work party coordinator for Lancaster Canal Trust and we did not intend to imply this. As of December 2016, this post was currently vacant.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Time to have your say on Lancaster University’s future

Plans for the development of Lancaster University to 2020 and beyond, including exciting key projects such as the Health Innovation Campus, will be shared with the community in January.

Lancaster University Vice-Chancellor Professor Mark E. Smith will invite the local community to share their own views on the development of the University at the event at Lancaster Town Hall on Tuesday 10th January 2017 at 6.30pm.

The event will also showcase ways in which the city and the campus currently work together, through activities like student volunteering, summer schools for young people from across Lancashire and the North-West, community fundraising and on technology projects such as bringing free public Wi-Fi to Lancaster and Morecambe.

Professor Smith said: “It is important for both the University and the city to consider their priorities and find ways to continue to work together for mutual benefit. The University is a part of a community, and making sure that the community is involved in the University’s development and forward planning is vital. I look forward to the discussion at this event.”

• Tickets for this event are free but should be reserved in advance by calling 01524 510533 or online here All welcome

Monuments of the North West light up for Samaritans this festive season

Three local landmarks are being lit up in green this December as part of a North West scheme to remind people that Samaritans are there to support people 24/7 throughout the festive period.

On the evening of Friday 23 December, Blackpool Tower, the Ashton Memorial in Lancaster and The Sir John Barrow monument on Hoad Hill in Ulverston will all turn green to raise awareness of the work of the Samaritans in the North West. Other landmarks that will be lit up for the Samaritans in the North West that night will be Liverpool Town Hall, St Michaels Church, Macclesfield and The Tower of Refuge and the Ramsey Swing Bridge, Isle of Man.

The Ashton Memorial will continue to be lit during the week between Christmas and New Year and Angel Square in Manchester and The Pyramid in Stockport will also be lit from the 19th December until 23 December, meaning that on 23 December, all the buildings involved across the North West will be lit simultaneously.

Jenny Dighton, Director of Lancaster and District Samaritans said: “We know that for all sorts of reasons, the festive period can be one of the most difficult times of year for many people. People may be worried about money, under great pressure, missing someone they've lost or feeling lonely or depressed. Lighting up these iconic buildings is a visual reminder to people across the North West that around the country Samaritans volunteers are available any time, day or night, including all over the holidays, for anyone who is finding life difficult or needs someone to talk to.”

"We're very grateful to Brent Lees of BCL Lighting Design which came up with the idea of lighting three landmarks around Morecambe Bay, as well as to Williamson Park, Merlin Entertainments and Ulverston Town Council who have made this combined effort possible.”

Brent Lees of BCL Lighting Design, responsible for the lighting of the Ashton Memorial said: “We regularly light the Ashton Memorial in Lancaster for charities. When we were approached by Lancaster and District Samaritans to light up the memorial over Christmas, we thought it would be an opportunity to get other North West landmarks involved. All three of these buildings are visible for miles around the North West coastline and it's great that they will be beacons of light in the darkness –  rather like the Samaritans can be for those in need.”

The lighting of Sir John Barrow monument is provided by Marl of Ulverston.

Anyone in distress can talk to Samaritans any time they like, in their own way and off the record, about whatever is getting to them. To contact Samaritans you can call for free on 116 123 or email round the clock, every single day of the year.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

County Council winds up social care training company

Lancashire Workforce Development Partnership Limited (LWDP), a company owned by Lancashire County Council, has ceased trading, 11 years after it was set up to support workforce development activities in the social care sector.

LWDP formally ceased to trade on 7 December. The company, based in Bamber Bridge, employed 13 people who have been made redundant as a result of the decision to wind up the Partnership.

The decision to cease funding LWDP was agreed by Full Council at its budget meeting in February 2016, as part of the council's response to its extremely challenging financial circumstances and changes to the social care sector.  Our County Council is being forced by central government to find £303 million in savings (cuts) by 2020, which means councillors are continually being forced into some harrowing choices.

The government's own Health Select Committee has warned Chancellor Philip Hammond that the budget allowed to local authorities for Health & Social Care is so inadequate that it will cause both chaos to underfunded NHS hospitals and intense distress for people reliant on these services for their survival.

The government's only response to date has been to increase the limit by which Councils can raise their Council Tax. They have so far refused to acknowledge that the most this could raise in lower-rated authorities such as Lancashire would barely be a drop in the ocean of disproportionately austere funding cuts they have imposed on lower-income authorities.

In last February's budget for 2016 / 2017 the County Council already made a 4% increase in Council Tax. Even so they were also forced to drop planned cuts to the council's flood risk management service after flooding last winter.

Speaking about this latest change in the Health & Social Care sector, Jenny Mein, Leader of Lancashire County Council, said: "Over the years Lancashire Workforce Development Partnership has contributed significantly to improving the quality of social care for many people across the county, through its training and workforce development activities. However, current social care market conditions mean we now have to prioritise different types of training provision.

"This has been a difficult decision to make, and I am very sympathetic to those people who will be made redundant.

"We have to ensure that we are getting the best value from all of our funding and winding the company up, will enable us to recover around £750,000 from its reserves and spend the money directly to provide training for the social care sector."

('Reserves' refers to money that must be set aside to ensure that a contract made by the Council can be honoured for the duration of its term.)

Lesley Bamber, Chief Executive of Lancashire Workforce Development Partnership, said: "This has been a very sad process for everyone involved in the Partnership, and whilst I do not agree with the decision, I do understand the county council's decision.

"I am very proud of all of the staff who have contributed to our work over the years and of the difference we have made to improving standards of care for some of the most vulnerable people in society.

"I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such committed and talented people and wish them all the very best in their future careers."

LWDP formally ceased to trade on 7 December. The company, based in Bamber Bridge, employed 13 people who have been made redundant as a result of the decision to wind up the Partnership.

'Lancaster Sings Leonard' homage night at the Yorkie this Wednesday

Players, singers and writers from all over the North-West will be at the Yorkshire House this Wednesday December 21 to celebrate the work of Leonard Cohen, in a night for Lancaster to Sing Leonard.

The Yorkshire House has a long and glorious tradition of, very occasionally, hosting homage nights to great and influential singer / songwriters, in aid of charity.  The range of interpretations local artists render into these already great songs has always held me spell-bound. These nights are very special and not to be missed.

The beloved Canadian songwriter, novelist and poet died last month and Lancaster Cohen fans Betty Manson and Dan Haywood felt that a night paying homage was in order.

Dan says " We've been pleased to find that so many local musicians have been inspired by Cohen and all who are taking the stage are very excited. Cohen was a peerless writer for whom many have a special place in their heart. I think 'Lancaster Sings Leonard' will be a special night.

Some of the seventeen performers already have Leonard songs in their repertoire, while others are rehearsing one-off collaborations. Janine Wells is a sublime singer and guitarist who hasn't played in public for almost ten years-- but such is her love for the man she's coming out of retirement for one night only. She'll be playing 'Tonight will be Fine' and 'Suzanne' and I can't wait to hear her again".

Other classics on the cards include Joan of Arc, Who By Fire, I'm Your Man and Hallelujah- ranging from pared back solo renditions to versions backed by a house band including brilliant Liverpool violinist Mikey Kenney and local bass virtuoso Dave Shooter.

Dan adds: ''It won't be just Cohen's music at the celebration...there will be short readings from his books of poetry in between acts and audience members will be encouraged to recite their favourites too. Projections of images  of the legendary man will also enhance the evening".

The programme begins shortly after doors open at 8PM and is only partly seated so get there early to bag a table. Admission is £4 (£2 concs) and all proceeds will be donated to refugee charity Lancaster and Morecambe City of Sanctuary.