10 December 2017
Health Secretary Shona Robison is to meet Caithness health campaigners, Labour MSP Rhoda Grant has been told.
Mrs Grant contacted Ms Robison after the health rallies in Caithness on October 28, suggesting that the Health Secretary ‘experience the journeys patients make on a daily basis’ to receive their surgery, treatment or attend clinics.
Ms Robison has replied that she has now accepted an invitation to meet with CHAT, the Caithness Health Action Team, and local elected representatives, to listen to concerns about the provision of services in Caithness.
Mrs Grant, who represents the Highlands and Islands, is delighted that the Scottish Government finally appears to be listening to constituents.
“It is definitely good news that the Health Secretary has agreed to meet local people, but I am surprised that this hasn’t happened before now,” said Mrs Grant.
“I note that her letter does not say whether that meeting is to be in Edinburgh or somewhere in the Far North, or when it will be.
“However, I sincerely hope it will be in Caithness and that the Health Secretary does experience the conditions that many patients are facing day in and day out to travel to Raigmore Hospital for appointments and treatment.
“The strength of feeling about the future of rural health cannot be ignored. More money needs to be invested in Highlands and Islands health services to deliver what people deserve and desperately need.
“There has to be a stop to the swingeing cuts.”
In the letter, Ms Robison stresses that NHS Highland is undertaking a review into the wider provision of hospital and adult community services for the Caithness area, including Caithness General Hospital, Town & County (Wick) and Dunbar (Thurso) Hospitals. The Health Secretary says she wants to encourage all local people to make their views known to the board.
“In terms of travelling to receive healthcare services, NHS Highland have given an assurance that they are actively developing approaches to minimise the need for travel, such as greater use of telemedicine through video conferencing and telephone consultations,” says the Health Secretary.
“Exploring the opportunities for more local service provision in Caithness is a key part of the board’s review.”
Mrs Grant hopes Ms Robison will be good to her word as she says she will “take full account of all the available information and representations before coming to a final decision”.
Ms Robison also says that the decision on the Caithness Maternity Unit was made on the grounds of safety, informed by a review commissioned after the tragic death of a child in September 2015. “The decision was not referred to Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Government does not intend to intervene in this case,” adds Ms Robison.