MSP disappointed that there is a delay to kidney dialysis service.

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, is disappointed that there has been a delay to a kidney dialysis service being introduced to Skye, Lochalsh and Wester Ross due to recruitment issues.

NHS Highland has revealed that after advertising two nursing positions and one senior nursing position, they only have one person to interview today (23rd January 2020). They also revealed that because of this recruitment issue, there will be a delay to the introduction of a dialysis service in the current Broadford Hospital, which was set to begin in April 2020.

NHS Highland also stated that following the result of today’s interview that they are going to advertise the positions again immediately and that they are going to try to increase the reach of their adverts.

Currently there are five patients, all from the Lochalsh area, who have to travel to Raigmore Hospital three times a week to receive renal dialysis treatment.

Rhoda Grant said: “This is an obvious blow to my constituents in the Skye, Lochalsh and Wester Ross area who have to endure a 160 mile round trip, three times a week for treatment in Raigmore Hospital.”

Mrs Grant continued: “While this is disappointing, it is encouraging that NHS Highland is taking this issue seriously and are going to extend the reach of their advertising. I have passed this information to my constituents involved and I will keep pressure on NHS Highland to provide this service as quickly as possible.”

NHS Highland announced in November 2019 that the board had approved a new interim dialysis service for Skye, Lochalsh and Wester Ross in the current Broadford Hospital until the new Broadford Hospital opened where it will be transferred.

MSP seeks solution in impending childcare crisis

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, is writing to Orkney Islands Council asking it to intervene in the impending shortage of childcare facing parents in and around Kirkwall.

Concerned parents have been in touch with the MSP advising that the impending closure of the Peedie Breeks nursery could leave some of them unable to work as they will have no other childcare provision available to them.

The MSP said “I understand Peedie Breeks is to close in the summer of 2020 due to the lease on the old Papdale Halls ending with no viable alternative being available. Orkney Islands Council have, I understand, indicated that 3-5 year olds would most likely be catered for in existing nurseries attached to schools due to the ‘1140 hours by 2020’ Scottish Government policy to extend free childcare hours. It is unclear however how the schools will be able to take on the number of children that Peedie Breeks currently cares for.

Mrs Grant said “Parents of children aged 0-3 however are unsure how they will be able to carry on working with no other childcare provision available to them and with after school care also being of concern to a number of the parents.

“I am writing to Orkney Islands Council to ask them to intervene in the immediate term and I will be writing to the Scottish Government to ask what it will do to support parents with regard to 0-3 year old provision and access to after school care.

“Parents work to provide a better life for their children, they must be supported in doing this so that they are not put in the position of having to consider if they can continue to work. That would be damaging for the parents, for the children involved and for the local economy.”

MSP welcomes intervention in Uist dentist centralisation

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, is welcoming the intervention of the Scottish Government and the Scottish Health Council in the Uist dentistry situation.

Mrs Grant has been supporting the communities in Uist who have been fighting the proposal to centralise dental services in Benbecula since the plan was first aired in 2016. The MSP asked the Scottish Government and the Scottish Health Council to call in the decision after it was finally made by the Chief Executives of NHS Western Isles and the Comhairle in September last year. She has been told that the Scottish Government is sending the CDO (Chief Dental Officer) to visit with the IJB to discuss the outreach element of the proposal and the Scottish Health Council is also seeking a meeting with the IJB to understand more about the status of the decision and planned next steps.

Mrs Grant said “The Minister for Public Health, Joe FitzPatrick, has made it clear to me that he believes the existing service provision is not sustainable. I know many service users in Uist disagree wholeheartedly with this stance. However what the Minister has said is that the effectiveness of the outreach element of the new proposals will be a key issue and that he feels the most appropriate intervention is to closely monitor the development of this element before any escalation is required. As such, he is sending the CDO to visit with the IJB and report back to him.

“The Scottish Health Council has advised me that they are not aware of this going through the NHS Board’s governance structure, that it has been progressed through the IJB’s governance structure, and as such they cannot consider calling the decision in. They advise however, that they are seeking a meeting with the IJB to understand more about the status of the decision and planned next steps.”

She concluded “I am pleased these meetings are to take place. The fears of the communities in Uist have been ignored for too long and it is right that this proposal is properly monitored at a higher level. I very much hope that the flaws with this proposal become evident and that the decision will then be escalated to Scottish Ministers.

“I will be keeping a very close eye on developments.”


MSP condemns ATC centralisation plans

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, has condemned the announcement that plans to centralise air traffic control (ATC) in the Highlands and Islands will go ahead, despite fierce opposition from local communities, from the Prospect Union and from a cross section of MSPs.

Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) has announced that air traffic control for five Scottish regional airports will be undertaken centrally from Inverness. The airports involved are Sumburgh, Dundee, Inverness, Kirkwall and Stornoway.

HIAL said the change will modernise air traffic control but the Prospect Union say the plan puts 60 jobs at risk and described it as “poorly thought through”. It will rely on remote towers, which will not need to be staffed, feeding information to a new surveillance centre in Inverness.

Rhoda Grant said “From the day these proposals were first aired in 2017 I have received representation from local communities who are desperate to maintain the current system for safety reasons and to protect island jobs.

“I have been told that this project relies on superhigh bandwith to succeed. We all know that many of our remote and rural areas do not have this so how can HIAL press on regardless?

“The proposals to downgrade services at Wick and Benbecula are astounding given the localities have been earmarked as space ports. These decisions also fly in the face of the Scottish Government’s own recently published Islands Plan which seeks to protect and improve services and employment in island communities.

“HIAL appears to be intent on pushing this through despite its own consultants identifying the ‘remote tower’ model as the most costly and risky option.

“While this decision fits with the Scottish Government’s determination to centralise services out of local areas, it is an appalling decision and HIAL and the Scottish Government must stop these plans right now before remote air services are jeopardised and more local jobs are taken out of rural communities.”

MSPs press the case for women’s custody facility in the north

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, questioned the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf, in Parliament today about facilities for women prisoners from the Highlands and Islands and Moray.

During Portfolio Questions, Mr Stewart asked the Cabinet Secretary what plans the Scottish Government has for a new women’s community integration unit in the Highlands and Islands.

The Cabinet Secretary replied that in 2015 the Scottish Government announced plans for a new eighty place national women’s facility at Cornton Vale and up to five new community based custodial units (CCUs) which would each accommodate around twenty women at locations across Scotland. He stated that custodial arrangements for women in the Highlands and Islands remain as they are at present and that the national facility and the first two CCUs in Glasgow and Dundee were due to be operational by the end of 2021. The Cabinet Secretary said the decision on the next phase of CCUs will depend on risk profile, community locations of women in custody and on lessons learned from bringing the first phase of CCUs into operation.

Mr Stewart however responded to the Cabinet Secretary that in 2019 there were twenty four women in custody from the Highlands and Islands and Moray who were serving their sentences in HMP Grampian or Cornton Vale. The MSP said that distance from families affects relationships at home and behaviour within the prison environment. He asked if the Cabinet Secretary will consider a Community Integration Unit within the Highlands and Islands for women who are serving short sentences, on remand, on community integration or are at the end of their sentence.

The Cabinet Secretary said there were no longer facilities for women prisoners in Inverness due to low numbers of women prisoners in the area but said Mr Stewart makes the important point that locations for the other custody units have not yet been decided upon and that Mr Stewart should make representation to the Scottish Prison Service if he thinks there is a justifiable case for a Cummunity Custody Unit in the Highlands and Islands then he should put that forward.

Speaking afterwards, David Stewart said “Together with my colleague, Rhoda Grant, I will indeed make representation to the Scottish Prison Service on this.

“The new Community Custody Units are being designed to accommodate twenty women. In 2019 there were sixteen women from the Highlands in custody with the other eight being from island communities or Moray.

“Distances within the Highlands and Islands and Moray are already vast and to ask family members to travel further into Grampian or the central belt to visit female relatives is completely unjust. We will be making the case for facilities to be made available within the Highlands and Islands.”

Rhoda Grant who has also campaigned for local facilities said “Prison sentences not only impact on the prisoner but on their families too and we must ensure families, particularly children, can easily visit a loved one whilst they are serving their sentence. This is even more important where that access is to their mother.”

Scottish Government pressed on new treatment to tackle Essential Tremor

The Scottish Government is to be asked why there is a ‘blockage’ in bringing an innovative treatment for conditions such as Essential Tremor, MS and Parkinson’s to Scotland.

The Scottish Parliament’s public petitions committee heard today how high powered, focused ultrasound could be used on the brain to treat such conditions and is already being used in England.

However, in 2018, the National Specialist Services Committee was unable to endorse an application for funding which would allow a national designated service. It said more research was needed.

The public petitions committee agreed that the treatment had benefits and is now going back to the Government to ask why a decision has stalled, what is needed to achieve the introduction of the treatment and what the timescales are.

Highland and Islands Labour MSP,  Rhoda Grant, spoke at the committee, supporting Inverness resident, Mary Ramsay, who is campaigning to have the technology based in Dundee, and who has Essential Tremor. Her condition causes involuntary and rhythmic shaking and can affect almost any part of the body.

Mrs Grant read out part of Mrs Ramsay statement to MSPs which outlined why she was passionate about the campaign.

Mrs Grant said that Mary had told her: “My tremors, and the lack of understanding surrounding them, has impacted my entire life. Those of us with essential tremor deserve better, and there is a better option. If there is a will and determination to fight essential tremor, and to understand its causes, it can be overcome for the generations that will come after me. It is for those determining the outcome of this consultation to decide whether their will, and their determination, is sufficient for Scottish doctors and Scots with essential tremor to have the best opportunity to fight this fight. For me, and my part, if focussed ultrasound helps someone avoid what I went through, I will fight to my last breath to get it.”

After the meeting Mrs Ramsay, who lives in Dalneigh, said she was in tears when she heard the MSP read out that part of her statement to the committee.

“When she got to the last bit, the tears started rolling,” said Mrs Ramsay, who has received deep brain stimulation, a process which places electrodes in the brain, to help her condition.

“This is another step forward and I am hoping that we get the required response from the Government to get this technology in Scotland.”

Mrs Grant explained to the committee that Mrs Ramsay would not benefit from the new treatment but was passionate that others could.

“All the scientific work and case work surrounding this looks really positive and yes it is a new treatment and will take time to get embedded but it will be a game change for those with Essential Tremor, brain cancers as well as Parkinson’s,” said Mrs Grant.

  • Mary currently is Chair of the Scottish Tremor Society and supports the provision of magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) technology. She is supporting a £2.3million fundraising campaign run by the University of Dundee for the technology which, is nearing its target.

The technology uses MRI imaging to guide high powered, focused ultrasound to a very small point. At that point, molecules are vibrated extremely quickly, which creates intense local heat which destroys the tissue. The technology allows clinicians to target a very specific focal point – with very little heating produced in front of and behind that point, so only the targeted tissue is affected.

England is streets ahead with this equipment based at Imperial Healthcare NHS Trust, London. The team at Imperial supports the introduction of this novel technology to Scotland and the experts who use focused ultra sound at Imperial have informed the Ninewells team in Dundee that they would be happy to visit in order to guide them through the first few procedures.



Possible hope on horizon for Caithness and Highlands and Islands mothers

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, has met representatives from the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) and Maritime and Coastguard Agency in Holyrood to discuss the emergency transfer of pregnant women from Caithness.

Mrs Grant said the meeting was constructive and did give some hope that there could be a new service established to fly a medical team to the area to deal with maternity emergencies.

A new initiative called Best Start, looking at overall maternity services, is also considering whether a different skills and resources could be given to the ScotSTAR service, run by SAS and used to fly in medical experts in emergencies to locations across Scotland.

At the moment, ScotSTAR does not have obstetric/midwifery staff and Mrs Grant has raised this with Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, asking if this gap could be filled to aid remote and rural locations.

“This new development does give me some hope but we are not there yet,” said Mrs Grant.

“There is no timescale for this new venture to come before the Scottish Government as various groups are looking at issues around this.

“So, in the meantime, I will continue to push NHS Highland to look at a risk assessment for emergency transfers and obviously I still have concerns while any new system is being formulated.”

At the meeting, both the ambulance service and the coastguard agency reiterated their view that airlifting women in labour was risky and road ambulance was the best option.

In September 2019 Mrs Grant called on Ms Freeman to launch an urgent review into the availability and suitability of emergency air transport for pregnant women across the whole of the Highlands and Islands. Ms Freeman responded by suggesting Mrs Grant meet with SAS.

Mrs Grant’s plea came after her further investigation into the case of a Caithness mother who went into labour at 30 weeks with twins. The babies were born 50 miles apart in a dash by a road ambulance to Raigmore Hospital.

Mrs Grant asked NHS Highland, SAS and the Health Secretary further questions after receiving an edited version of a Significant Adverse Event Review into the incident. She previously asked First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to investigate.

She repeated her call for a full risk assessment to be carried out on such emergency transfers and that a suitable craft can be made available for airlifts.

Mrs Grant said then that after receiving the responses, for any woman in labour and needing emergency help going by road ambulance is really the only option and air transfer is almost a non-starter.

The mother of the twins, who wants to remain anonymous, is supporting Mrs Grant’s campaign for a review.

North broadband delayed yet again

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, who has campaigned for a decade for better broadband in the Highlands and Islands has said she is dismayed to hear that the procurement of the R100 contract for the north will be delayed again, causing untold frustration for constituents throughout the region.

The MSP was informed of this by way of a government inspired question from Paul Wheelhouse, the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, who advised that BT plc has been selected as the preferred bidder for the contract covering the north area and the government had intended to finalise governance and sign this contract in coming weeks.  However, the award is now subject to a legal challenge from Gigaclear Ltd, which the Scottish Government is currently considering and seeking advice on.

Mrs Grant said “Yet again, we have delays with the Highlands and Islands getting access to improved broadband.  Contracts in other parts of Scotland are signed and sealed but the north remains in limbo.

“This is a far cry from the Scottish Government’s claims to have everyone in Scotland connected to superfast broadband by 2021.  At this rate, we could be lucky if contracts are signed by then, never mind the infrastructure improved.

The MSP continued “It is not good enough, the north deserves, and needs, better.”


Details of the Government Inspired Question is below.



19 December 2019

Index Heading: Organisational Development and Operations

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (Scottish National Party): To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on procurement contracts relating to its Reaching 100% programme.


Paul Wheelhouse: Following my announcement on 10 October that BT plc was the sole bidder for lots 2 and 3, covering Central and South Scotland, I can confirm that these contracts were signed on Monday 16 December.

BT plc has also been selected as the preferred bidder for lot 1, covering the North area. We had intended to finalise governance and sign this contract in the coming weeks. However, I can confirm that this award is now subject to a legal challenge from Gigaclear Ltd, which the Scottish Government is currently considering and seeking advice on. This will include consideration of the potential impact on the North lot and I will update Parliament as soon as I have more information. This development does not impact the Central and South lots.