MV Loch Seaforth cancelled sailings

Highlands & Islands Regional MSP Rhoda Grant has ascertained by means of an FOI that the MV Loch Seaforth, which sails between Stornoway and Ullapool, has had to cancel 68 sailings due to adverse weather between July and December last year.


Rhoda Grant said ” After such a huge investment having being spent on this vessel, I am somewhat concerned to learn that 68 sailings were cancelled due to adverse weather conditions. Yes, I appreciate that this is a call that the Master or Captain of the vessel will make, taking cognisance of all other surrounding factors, but this number seems to me to be particularly high for a new vessel over a six month period and makes me wonder if the vessel is actually fit for purpose.


” Of course they get pretty severe weather out in the Minch, but is it so bad that so many sailings have to be cancelled? I would have thought that these factors would have been considered when they designed the build.






MSP extremely concerned about GP Contract after resignation from working body

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant is extremely concerned for the future of remote GPs’ practices after a prominent figure from the Rural GP Association of Scotland (RGPAS) resigned from a key working group.

Dr David Hogg, Vice-Chair of RGPAS, says that the short life Remote and Rural General Practice Working Group, set up by the Scottish Government in the wake of the New GP Contract, appears to have “fallen by the wayside” when it comes to finding ways to ensure the contract is implemented successfully in rural areas.

Moreover, Mr Hogg says he has become “increasing despondent about us seeing any pragmatic, realistic proposals to reverse the damaging effects of the new GP Contract in rural Scotland”.  There is also no-one to take over RGPAS’s representation on the working group because Dr Hogg’s says his colleagues are occupied “trying to safe-guard local services from the threats of the new contract”.

“This doesn’t bode well for the future of rural health care when GPs are stressing that what’s on the table with the new contract is an urban model and this just doesn’t suit remote and rural areas,” said Mrs Grant.

“A recent survey carried out by RGPAS highlighted that 82% of members believed the outlook for rural healthcare was worse under the contract, 88% of members voted to reject the new contract at the time of implementation, while 92% said they would vote to reject the contract based on their experience so far.

“GPs are worried it will cause poor continuity of care for patients and that procedures, currently performed at surgeries, are being centralised – for instance for blood tests or vaccinations. This will inevitably inconvenience patients and worsen health outcomes by raising barriers to care.

“My reading for Dr Hogg’s resignation is that the working group is turning a deaf ear to very serious concerns being raised by rural GPs across Scotland and the Highlands and Islands. He’s tried but he can’t try anymore and the process appears to be painfully slow.

“I will again contact Health Secretary Jean Freeman about this new development asking that she does not brush off the problems suffered by rural GPs, only to hear the views of urban GPs.”

In January Mrs Grant met Ms Freeman in Holyrood alongside Dingwall GP Miles Mack and Inverness GP Phil Wilson, also a Professor of Primary Care and Rural Health at the University of Aberdeen, to discuss the challenges faced by rural and remote practices under the new contract. The issue had been raised with her and with her Labour MSP colleague David Stewart.

GPs have told the MSPs that the new contract fails to recognise the unique workload in rural areas where surgeries deal with a far greater range of medical problems – including emergencies that would be dealt with in hospitals in urban areas.

The contract states that other health care professionals will be employed to deal with extra tasks such as blood tests or vaccinations but Mrs Grant argues there must be flexibility for GPs to retain the old system of care. The new contract’s funding formula has been based, under this new system, on the number of appointments and does not take account of issues in rural areas such as patient and doctor travel.

Note to editors

The short life Remote and Rural General Practice Working Group (RRGPWG) remit is working to support rural areas to deliver the first phase of the new contract. The group members include the BMA, Royal College of General Practitioners, Scottish Rural Medicine Collaborative, Scottish Government, NHS Boards, integration authorities and patient representation.

Dr Hogg’s resignation letter is on the RGPAS website:

Highlands and Islands MSP learns how early diagnosis can beat cancer sooner


Photo:  Rhoda with Jonathan Roden, who is Public Affairs Officer (Scotland) for Cancer Research UK.

MSP Rhoda Grant met Cancer Research UK staff at the Scottish Labour party conference in Dundee last week, to learn about the charity’s priorities for beating cancer sooner in Scotland

“Like everywhere in Scotland, cancer has a huge effect on families in the Highlands and Islands so it has been fantastic to meet with the Cancer Research UK team to hear more about their priorities for diagnosing patients sooner in Scotland,” said Mrs Grant, who represents the region.

Mrs Grant heard about Cancer Research UK’s latest campaign, which urges the Scottish Government to address shortages in the diagnostic workforce in Scotland.

The earlier a cancer is diagnosed the more likely it is to be treated successfully. For some of the most common types of cancer, survival is more than three times likely higher when the disease is diagnosed at its earliest stages.

Yet statistics show that more than 18,000 patients in Scotland waited more than the target time of six weeks to receive a diagnostic test in the quarter ending 38 December 2018.*

The report also shows that, during the same quarter, only 78.1% of patients received the tests they needed within six weeks. The target is that no one should be waiting longer than six weeks for a test.

Gordon Matheson, Public Affairs Manager for Scotland at Cancer Research UK, said: “the NHS is under continued strain with too many patients still waiting too long for tests, some of which could detect cancer”.

“With a welcome focus on screening and early detection of cancer, there’s an urgent need to comprehensively address workforce shortages.”

“Much needed investment in this area is beginning to emerge and it’s vital we see a strong emphasis on making sure we have enough staff to meet increasing patient need, and that existing staff are being used to their best potential.”


* The statistics reflect the waiting times for all diagnostic services in Scotland, including those that affect cancer patients.
The full ISD Scotland report can be found here:
Diagnostic Test & Investigation 31 Dec 18 (current) 30 Sep 18
31 Dec 17
Key Diagnostic Tests & Investigations 78.1 78.1
All Endoscopy 57 56 56.9
All Radiology 88.1 59.2 90.6

Please be advised that these figures should not be compared between Health Boards, as some of them may have a small number of patients that could lead to variations.

Health Board Waiting within 6 week Standard (%)
NHS Ayrshire & Arran 65.1
NHS Borders 61
NHS Dumfries & Galloway 97.6
NHS Fife 98.4
NHS Forth Valley 98.1
NHS Golden Jubilee National Hospital 100.0
NHS Grampian 67.7
NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde 76.1
NHS Highland 74.3
NHS Lanarkshire 97.4
NHS Lothian 66.2
NHS Orkney 96.8
NHS Shetland 100.0
NHS Tayside 90.9
NHS Western Isles 69.6

About Cancer Research UK

• Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.
• Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.
• Cancer Research UK receives no government funding for its life-saving research. Every step it makes towards beating cancer relies on every donation made.
• Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival in the UK double in the last 40 years.
• Today, 2 in 4 people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK’s ambition is to accelerate progress so that by 2034, 3 in 4 people will survive their cancer for at least 10 years.
• Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.
• Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK’s vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.

For further information about Cancer Research UK’s work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1022 or visit Follow us on Twitter and Facebook


Smart Energy GB

Good to catch up with Smart Energy GB at conference. Over 27,000 households in the Highlands & Islands region now have a smart meter. If you would like to upgrade, contact your energy supplier.

Skills Development Scotland’s Apprenticeship Week 2019.

Labour Highlands and Islands Regional MSP, Rhoda Grant yesterday (4th March 2019) visited the scenic Highland Farm Café in Dingwall to meet some of the Apprentices during Skills Development Scotland’s Apprenticeship Week 2019.

Scottish Apprenticeship Week highlights the benefits apprenticeships bring to individuals, businesses and the economy. This year’s theme is “Skills for the Future”, which is to recognise the importance of investing in the workforce while also celebrating the achievements of individual apprentices.

Mrs Grant met Mairi and Graeme who are two Apprentices currently hired by Highland Farm Café under an apprenticeship.

“It’s wonderful to celebrate this week and to remind individuals that there are different options for your chosen career”, said Rhoda Grant

She continued “Some people just cannot sit in a classroom full-time and need that practical experience thus an apprenticeship would be ideal.”

“I’m delighted to support this week and I applaud businesses such as Highland Farm Café who take part in these schemes.“