CHAT column, June 2018

First published in John O’Groat Journal in June 2018

Firstly, I would like to thank the organisations, groups and numerous individuals especially the many who work in the NHS, for contacting CHAT and offering their support following the press article last month where CHAT came under criticism for what we are doing, including the claim that we had asked patients to film their medical experiences.

To be absolutely clear, no member of CHAT has ever asked and never will ask anyone to video their medical experience or NHS staff. A member of the public  mentioned  on social media, the possibility of them videoing their own car journey from Wick to Inverness on the A9.

As anyone who uses Social Media knows it is a very difficult thing to control and there are people ‘out there’ who will jump on any opportunity to say some very unpleasant things.

CHAT campaigns for the best possible local healthcare. It always has and continues to hold NHS staff, especially front line staff, in the highest regard.

Recently, members of CHAT, along with patient groups, local councillors, NHS Highland staff and managers, attended the three meetings looking at the future of healthcare in Caithness. These meeting were quite hard work at times with lots of statistics, discussions, arguments and agreements, but at the end of the day the outcome is, I believe, going to be very positive for Caithness. We started with over 30 different options and now end up with four. The final options will be agreed on at an additional meeting later this month then it will go to NHS Highland Board for approval before going forward for full public consultation.

The four options are:

1. Do nothing – maintain the ‘status quo’

2.A  new, 24×7 ‘care hub’ at Dunbar hospital and another at the Town & County. These will include inpatient beds, palliative care, respite care, step up/down beds, care home, sheltered housing etc. The Dunbar will also keep its Minor Injuries Unit so all the existing hospital services are protected and additional services will be added. Also, CGH will be refurbished to include a larger emergency and outpatient department.

3 As above, but the Wick hub is based at Pulteney House.

4 A new, 24×7 ‘care hub’ at the site of the Dunbar hospital and CGH gets a large extension and the Wick care hub is based there.

NHSH are very optimistic about this and believe, with the support of the community, they will be successful in getting the necessary funding from the Scottish Government.

I believe we’ve only reached this stage because of a number of factors.

Firstly and most importantly, the local community in their thousands, answered CHAT’s request to support local health services and staff on the day of action last October.

Following that the Scottish Government met with NHS Highland Board, questioning why there were protesters on the streets of Caithness over health matters. NHS Highland admitted that they had lost the confidence of Caithness folk, apologised and declared themselves ready to listen.

CHAT met the Health Minister in Edinburgh.

Finally, the participants in the redesign meetings came together and agreed a way forward for the healthcare of Caithness for the next 25 years.

Some good news to finish on. The baby seats have arrived any mother wishing to borrow them please contact CHAT.

Ron Gunn
Vice Chair Chat