Health Secretary raises Labour MSP’s concerns with NHS Highland and SAS

The Health Secretary has promised a “comprehensive response” to concerns raised by a Labour MSP into the methods of transferring pregnant women to hospital from Caithness to Inverness.

Rhoda Grant, who represents the Highlands and Islands, wrote to Jeane Freeman last month renewing her call for a full risk assessment on such transport after receiving an edited version of an investigation into the birth of twin babies, born 50 miles apart.

In February Mrs Grant asked the First Minister why the air ambulance was not initially called when the Caithness mother of the twins went into labour at 30 weeks.

In June, after the MSP received of ‘precis’ of a report into a Significant Adverse Event Review of the twins’ incident –  from the new NHS Highland Chief Executive, Iain Stewart – she wrote to Ms Freeman, the Scottish Ambulance Service and NHS Highland looking for answers to several questions raised by the case.

In Ms Freeman’s recent reply to Mrs Grant, the Health Secretary says: “Your letter raises a number of concerns, particularly around the emergency transfer of pregnant women in Caithness by SAS and training and equipment provision for obstetric emergencies in the area.

“As you will agree, patient safety is paramount, both for delivering mothers and their babies, which is why I am raising the concerns detailed in your letter directly with the health board and SAS to obtain assurance that service delivery is of the high quality expected by and for pregnant women in Scotland.

“I will write to you again following these discussions to provide a comprehensive response to the issues you raised.”

In the precis of the report NHS Highland said that the air ambulance helicopter was “a highly unsuitable environment for the delivery of a baby” and Mrs Grant wanted to know what aircraft can be used to airlifted pregnant women to hospital in an emergency.

“I also raised a number of other questions about equipping staff with specialised skills and training that would allow them to carry out checks normally carried out by an obstetrician and also about the prospect of another review, bringing in other Caithness cases,” said Mrs Grant.

“It is now good to know that the Health Secretary is to follow these up with the health authority and ambulance service which have yet to reply to my questions.

“There must be a full risk assessment carried out on what transport can be used and when and what craft is suitable for airlift in emergencies with pregnant women.

“If pregnant women at risk cannot be transferred by air or by road, perhaps due to weather conditions or the need for an urgent delivery, what is the plan for Caithness? What equipment and expert advice is available for the midwives and other health professionals?

“It is vital that the people of Caithness get some answers to questions that have been asked over many, many months without suitable answers.

“I’m anxious that no pregnant women will have to go through such a risky transfer to hospital as that suffered by the twins’ mother.”

  • Previously, at First Minister’s Questions, Mrs Grant told Nicola Sturgeon the woman had bravely shared her experience of giving birth under the current maternity provisions in Caithness.  After going to Caithness General Hospital, the mother was informed that she would have to go to Inverness by road ambulance, over a 100 miles away and two- and half-hour drive.
  • Mrs Grant told the First Minister: “Half way into that journey they had to stop at a community hospital at Golspie when the first twin was born breech.
  • “The air ambulance was then tasked but because it would take two hours to arrive the first twin would be sent by road to Inverness.
  • “The helicopter could not land, another air ambulance was tasked but this would take too long therefore a second ambulance resumed the journey to Inverness where the second twin was born.. Thankfully after prolonged stay in hospital all are now doing well.
  • “However, it begs the question why was the air ambulance or emergency retrieval team not tasked initially airlifting the mum from Caithness.
  • “Will the First Minister investigate this, and will she make sure that the air ambulance treats situations like this as a priority?”
  • Nicola Sturgeon promised to investigate and conveyed her good wishes to the family. She said she could not answer immediately as to why the air ambulance was not initially tasked, and did not have information in the chamber, and but she asked the Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, to investigate this.

SNP Hammers Highlands and Islands Councils with cuts

The SNP Government has hammered Highlands and Islands councils with cuts to their budgets, putting lifeline services at risk.

New figures from the independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) show that between 2013-14 and 2018-19, local authorities’ budgets were cut per person in real terms.

For the Western Isles Council it was £572 per person; Highland came in at £176; Moray £93; Orkney £90; Shetland £414 and Argyll and Bute £299.

Across Scotland, council budgets were slashed by £810million in real terms during the period.

Scottish Labour says the cuts have put lifeline services at risk and show the SNP has not only failed to stand up to Tory austerity, it has turbo-charged it on councils

Highland and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said:

“The SNP has hammered Highland Council with year after year of cuts. These cuts have put lifeline services like schools and social care at risk.

“More than £800million has been stripped from councils in real terms in recent years.

“Instead of using Scotland’s powers to stand up to the Tories, the SNP government has used Holyrood as a conveyer belt for cuts.

“And we know these cuts have been made amid the government sitting on almost half a billion pounds of unspent cash.

“It’s time for Finance Secretary Derek Mackay to listen to Scottish Labour and use this money to properly fund local services.

https://digitalpublications.parliament.scot/ResearchBriefings/Report/2019/7/2/Local-government-finance–facts-and-figures-2013-14-to-2019-20

 

 

Labour MSP: still questions to answer on transport of pregnant women from Caithness

An MSP is renewing her call for a full risk assessment to be carried out on the methods of transporting pregnant women to hospital from Caithness to Inverness after receiving an edited version of an investigation into the birth of twin babies, born 50 miles apart.

In February, Rhoda Grant, who represents the Highlands and Islands, asked the First Minister why the air ambulance was not initially called when a Caithness mother went into labour at 30 weeks with twins.

Mrs Grant has now received of ‘precis’ of a report into a Significant Adverse Event Review of the case from the new NHS Highland Chief Executive, Iain Stewart.

In his letter, Mr Stewart says: “It is important to point out that the air ambulance helicopter is a highly unsuitable environment for the delivery of a baby.”

Mrs Grant says: “His answer begs the question – what is a suitable environment for pregnant women to be airlifted to hospital in an emergency and why was the helicopter called twice in this case if it was so unsuitable?

“Also, Mr Stewart’s letter only has a passing reference to Specialist Transport and Retrieval (SCOTSTAR), a national service that provides safe transfer for some of the sickest patients within NHS Scotland. The clinical teams are called in to transport patients, from babies through to children and adults by road and air. The expert teams include doctors, nurses and paramedics.

“Why was SCOTSTAR not called in? There are many questions unanswered in this edited version of the review and, while I see the need for patient confidentiality, it does not give me confidence that a similar incident will not happen again. There must be a full risk assessment carried out on what transport can be used and when and what craft is suitable for airlift in emergencies with pregnant women.”

Mr Stewart stresses that the care teams involved in the birth “behaved appropriately and professionally and that the proper procedures were followed in the best interests of the mother and her babies”.

Mrs Grant said: “I must congratulate all the staff working on the front-line in this case. They had a difficult job and did their very best for the mother and her babies.”

Previously, at First Minister’s Questions, Mrs Grant told Nicola Sturgeon the woman had bravely shared her experience of giving birth under the current maternity provisions in Caithness.

After going to Caithness General Hospital, the mother was informed that she would have to go to Inverness by road ambulance, over a 100 miles away and two and half hour drive

Mrs Grant told the First Minister: “Half way into that journey they had to stop at a community hospital at Golspie when the first twin was born breech.

“The air ambulance was then tasked but because it would take two hours to arrive the first twin would be sent by road to Inverness.

“The helicopter could not land, another air ambulance was tasked but this would take too long therefore a second ambulance resumed the journey to Inverness where the second twin was born.

“Thankfully after prolonged stay in hospital all are now doing well.

“However, it begs the question why was the air ambulance or emergency retrieval team not tasked initially airlifting the mum from Caithness.

“Will the First Minister investigate this and will she make sure that the air ambulance treats situations like this as a priority?”

Nicola Sturgeon promised to investigate and conveyed her good wishes to the family. She said she could not answer immediately as to why the air ambulance was not initially tasked, and did not have information in the chamber, and but she asked the Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, to look into this.

Ends

Note for editors: Posting on Caithness Health Action Team’s Facebook site:

Caithness Health Action Team – CHAT

14 February at 21:30 ·

What’s it going to take for NHS Highland to change things? Where is this going to end?

While at my work in November 2018 my waters broke and I started labour. I never expected labour as I was only 30 weeks pregnant with my twins. A few hours later we made our way through to Caithness General Hospital. I was taken good care of by the midwives in Wick while they decided on what to do next.
I was in Wick for a couple of hours and was informed I would have to go to Inverness by ambulance. I was put in the ambulance with two midwives. The ambulance crew took an incubator as well. There was no panic and everyone seemed very calm. My partner followed in the car.
We made our way to Inverness. Contractions came stronger and closer so the midwife checked me to which they weren’t concerned. About 10/15mins later I had an urge to push. We stopped outside Golspie for the midwives to do a second check. It was decided we must stop at Golspie hospital. The midwives informed my partner and we made our way into Golspie.
Minutes later we arrived and I was wheeled into a very small room with a number of staff inside. Shortly after arrival about 10.30pm twin 1 was born breech. He was being looked after by doctors and nurses very soon after birth.
Thankfully twin 2 was in no rush to appear.
A TV with a video link to Inverness was wheeled into the room with a number of staff on the screen. They used this link to consult with Inverness to decide on what to do next.
I was informed a helicopter was being sent out but wouldn’t be arriving till sometime later. So they sent up two nurses and a doctor by police car from Inverness to look after twin one.
We were told that a helicopter was coming but then it couldn’t land due to frost on the propellers so it had to go back down the line. They would have been able to send another helicopter but this would have been many hours later.
There was a lot of confusion, questions and lack of decisions being made on what was the best option going forward. It was eventually decided we should make our way to Inverness by ambulance.
About 2am we left for Inverness by convoy, 2 ambulances, one with me and two midwives and other with twin one and two nurses, a police car and two other cars with Drs and my partner.
When we arrived in Inverness to our surprise the Inverness midwives took over and the Wick midwives involvement was finished.
I was induced and twin 2 was born head down. He was taken to SCBU along with his brother.
We spent 6 weeks in Inverness until the twins grew strong enough. I was provided with accommodation for the full 6 weeks.
We now have many appointments in Raigmore due to no-one being able to do checks up here. Why is this?
I am expected to drive two newborns to Inverness for an appointment lasting a couple of minutes.

We all have nothing but the greatest of praise for all staff involved but often think what if something went wrong while on the A9 or even in Golspie hospital.
All parties involved did the best they could with the situation. They made us feel very comfortable and safe in their hands.

My delivery should never have happened the way it did. It could had gone so wrong.
We would like to know,
Why weren’t we flown to Inverness?
Why could specialists not come up to Wick?
Why are Wick and Golspie staff expected to work like that?
Golspie wasn’t prepared for such an emergency but they did what they could and they did amazing. This shouldn’t be the case.
We know of another birth which took place in Golspie in 2017 and wonder if anything has been learned or changed from that.
We dread to think what could have happened if the road was closed by an accident or bad weather.
There is an investigation into our incident but we are unsure if the results will be made public.

Procurement timeline extended for broadband – longer waiting time for some areas

Responding to a Scottish Government announcement that the procurement timeline for the Reaching 100% Broadband programme will be extended, Scottish Labour Rural Economy Spokesperson Rhoda Grant said:

“Many of these delays have been avoidable. The Scottish Government have had ample time to plan, but have sat on their hands and blamed the UK Government – so with the addition of these delays, many people across the country are likely to be left behind for too long.

“I hope that the announcement from Ofcom that everyone will have a legal right to a decent connection from March 2020 is adding much needed extra pressure onto the Government.

“In remote rural areas, digital connectivity is vital to a decent quality of life.  Any delay to providing superfast broadband to 100% of the population means leaving people behind.  The Scottish Government should stop hiding behind the detail and come clean.”

For information:

Government Initiated Question:

7 June 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 the procurement for the Reaching 100% programme.

S5W-23670

Paul Wheelhouse: We are determined that R100 programme delivers the best possible value and benefit for Scotland and have designed a procurement process to achieve this. Key to doing so is to ensure a highly competitive process that results in the £600 million funding for this programme delivering on our commitment to provide access to superfast broadband to every home and business in Scotland.

The procurement has therefore been structured, following internal and external advice and statutory and regulatory requirements, with defined dialogue cycles and submission dates. An Invitation to Participate in Dialogue was issued last Spring which resulted in four bidders being short-listed. Following the initial round of dialogue, a request for an extension of six weeks was granted to enable bidders to prepare initial submissions. Subsequently, a complaint was lodged, by one of the bidders, with the National Competency Centre, (managed by the UK Government as State Aid leads) citing a breach of the Code of Conduct by another bidder. This was resolved satisfactorily but resulted in a necessary pause in the procurement with a corresponding six week delay.

Ahead of the next key milestone we were required to provide a revised intervention area (listing all eligible premises). This update was necessary to allow the final stages of dialogue to be based on the most up-to-date picture, taking into consideration commercial coverage plans and changes to planned Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) deployment. Additional premises were added back into the R100 intervention area, in part due to direction from UK Ministers that future Gainshare activity be focused on full fibre solutions. This resulted in greater than expected changes across the country; and bidders requested extensions to enable them to remain in the process and provide competitive bids. We considered these requests carefully and balanced the wish to adhere to our timetable against the risks associated with not allowing bidders more time and our determination to provide the best possible outcome for Scotland.

We have therefore provided the bidders with the extension sought, giving them more time to remodel their solutions. This will see the procurement timeline extended, with the appointment of a preferred bidder or bidders anticipated by the end of September 2019 with contract signature by the end of the year.

MSP welcomes broadband move but disappointed it can’t be accessed now

A Highlands and Islands Labour MSP says the Applecross community should be allowed to connect into new superfast broadband sooner rather than later.

The link is now in place, installed by energy giant SSE as part of a project to supply the nearby Navy base at Sand Bay.

However, residents cannot get immediate access and will have to wait until one of three bidders wins the broadband contract under the Scottish Government’s R100 scheme.

MSP Rhoda Grant has this week written to SSE to ask if it or the MOD can grant access sooner.

“I can’t see any reason why the area’s community company can’t get inked into this, in the interim. That would really help people until one of the R100 contractors takes over,” said Mrs Grant.

“While I welcome the move to establish this scheme, it is disappointing that the small community of 200 cannot getting going with better broadband right away.

“It is well known that Applecross and surrounding areas suffer from some of the lowest broadband speeds in the country with some people have no internet connection, so this project was such a good idea for the community.

“However, it’s fair to say, with the tourist season about to take off, the community is now frustrated at having to wait to see the benefit.”

Last year, the nearby British Underwater Test and Evaluation Centre needed fibre optic cabling to the range terminal control building at Sand. This brought disruption to the area when it was under construction and the MOD agreed that the community could receive a broadband benefit from the link. SSE Enterprise Telecoms installed the cabling.

Following contact from concerned residents that they would not be allowed benefit from the new broadband line, Mrs Grant last year convened a meeting in the Scottish Parliament between SSE and the Applecross Community Company’s Development Officer to help broker a solution. She also wrote to the Ministry of Defence.

 

Western Isles and patient escorts – travel scheme should be reintroduce

Following the announcement that Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, has ordered NHS Western Isles to set up a working group on funding for patient escorts, Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, said that the region’s travel scheme should be reintroduced to solve the problem.

“While I welcome the working group being set up, this problem was caused by the Scottish Government no longer meeting travel costs over and above the NHS Budget, while at the same time cutting budgets,” she said.

“This has meant that NHS boards look to making savings and sadly this has had a terrible effect on patients travelling for treatment. Many are very worried about what lies ahead and may be travelling to receive a diagnosis.

“Doctors often tell patients to take someone with them in order that they can better recall what they are being told.

“This comes at a price for island patients and needs to be addressed.  The working group needs to find a solution, but I also think the Cabinet Secretary should reintroduce and fund the Highlands and Islands travel scheme and that would solve the problem.”

Ms Freeman told Mrs Grant she has asked that the working group have patient group representatives. Ms Freeman also wants to group to report back to her by mid-July.

Mrs Grant previously took up concerns from constituents and the Western Isles Cancer Care Initiative.

The cancer care group is pressing for automatic entitlement to an escort for anyone attending a mainland appointment for a life changing diagnosis, also for any patient going to a mainland appointment for their initial treatment plan and that specialist nurses involved directly with a patient’s care (Macmillan, MS, Dementia) should be able to recommend approval of escorts whilst patients are in their care, rather than being referred through the medical director.

Please support Mary Ramsay’s petition

Happy to support Inverness campaigner Mary Ramsay who has lodged this petition. Mary has been a stalwart – raising awareness of essential tremor and highlighting the need for a focus ultrasound scanner to be based in Scotland for treating people who have this condition.
Please click here to support and share

 

Delighted to see 24/7 nursing cover to return to Raasay

Good to see that 24 hour nursing cover is to return to Raasay – something I’ve been campaigning for since 2016.
The islanders put up an excellent case for having this cover reinstated but for a long time NHS Highland appeared not to be listening.
Hats off to the campaigners. You put up a great fight and were not willing to give up.
* Photo take with campaigners when I first became involved.

Job Vacancy: Office Manager

Rhoda Grant MSP and David Stewart MSP (Highlands & Islands) are looking for an enthusiastic and highly organised individual to join their team as an Office Manager based in Inverness.
This is a full-time position based in Inverness with some travel required.
Hours: 35 per week
Salary: £32,000 – £34,000

To read the job description and to apply please click here

MSP asks Government to look into Cairngorm financial fiasco

Funicular Railway, Cairngorm
cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Peter S – geograph.org.uk/p/1975585

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant has raised questions in Holyrood about Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Natural Retreats over the operation of Cairngorm Mountain.

Mrs Grant raised a Topical Question today (Tuesday) asking the Scottish Government what action it was taking regarding its dealings with HIE and the company, in the light of a special investigation by the BBC.

She also pushed for the community to take over the running of the mountain to save the local economy.

“Cairngorm Mountain is crucial to the economy of Badenoch and Strathspey,” Mrs Grant, who represents the Highlands and Islands, told MSPs.

“The community there have been expressing concerns for some time about the management of the Mountain by Natural Retreats and the flow of money in and out of the Cairngorm.

“As this is a complicated web involving a public body and its interaction with private companies, can the Cabinet Secretary tell me what financial checks were made of both Natural Retreats and Natural Assets Investments Ltd before they gained the management contact and while it was running?

She went on the ask Rural Economy Secretary, Fergus Ewing :

“Were Cairngorm Mountain Ltd in breach of contract when they went into receivership?  If so could HIE have cancelled the contract rather than have to pay the receiver to take it back into ownership?

“Given the community’s desire to own this asset, will the Scottish Government now look a transferring it to them, while ensuring that all monies owing to HIE and the Government are recouped from Natural Retreats?”

Mrs Grant’s questions came against a background of a number of constituents and organisations who were concerned about the running of Cairngorm, especially in the light of Natural Retreats going into administration in November last year, weeks after the funicular was closed due to safety fears.

“However, questions were being asked about the private company and its apparent lack of investment long before it went into administration,” said Mrs Grant following her question in Parliament.

“The complexity of the financial situation made it very difficult to discover exactly what was happening with the flow or money.

“This is not only a question about what happened to get the mountain into this state, but what happens now and what investment can be given to the community which has plans to improve the hill for the future.

“Cairngorm is crucial for the economy of this jewel in the crown of the Highlands and crucial for all those who live and work there.”

In his reply Mr Ewing told Mrs Grant that he had asked HIE for a full account of the situation and will be meeting with them.

He agreed that Cairngorm was extremely important for Badenoch and Strathspey but also for the whole of the Scottish sports industry and he was “well aware” of questions being asked by the media and others in the community.

On the issue of any breach of contract and if public money could be paid back, Mr Ewing said these were “perfectly reasonable questions”, but stressed these were legal questions and it would be imprudent to answer off the cuff.

He said the questions were matters of concern to the public and of considerable public interest.

  • The infrastructure of the mountain, the lifts and railway, are owned by the public, under the wing of HIE. In 2014 Natural Retreats took it over the running of Cairngorm. The BBC investigation highlighted that the company was then sold to Natural Assets Investments Limited – a company with many of the same directors as Natural Retreats. Natural Retreats had the lease to operate the mountain – but the assets had been transferred to the wider group.

Ends

Note to editors:

The Topical question:

Rhoda Grant S5T-01570

  1. To ask the Scottish Government, in light of the recent BBC investigation, what action it is taking regarding its dealings with Natural Retreats and CairnGorm Mountain Limited.