CHAT column, August 2019

First published in John O’Groat Journal in August 2019

CHAT members regularly attend meetings and I must disagree with what was quoted in the local press by one of our critics; things do happen following meetings with “highfalutin senior health or Scottish Executive representatives”.

The whole point of these meetings is that we can pass on, anonymously, what members of the public are telling us about their experiences with the health service. In many cases their stories otherwise would not be heard. We are lucky, as a group, to have the ear of, for example, the Health Secretary, the Chief Executive and managers of NHS Highland, prominent politicians and local councillors. Having a dialogue with these people who make the decisions is the only way forward.

We recently met NHS Highland Chief Executive Iain Stewart and NHSH managers to discuss many issues of great importance to local people. Orthodontics, maternity, hearing tests, jaundice tests and treatments for new borns, paediatrics, local clinics, cancelled appointments, gynaecology, bed numbers, Dunbar and Town and County Hospitals, the Ambulance service, redesign plans and finally, employment were all covered.

We were to meet for an hour but Iain Stewart, to his credit, said, “this meeting will last as long as it takes.” Two and three-quarter hours later we finished what we believe was a very constructive meeting with a number of action plans drawn up.

This was a totally different from the last meeting CHAT had with the previous Chief Executive and Chairman when, after 30 seconds and asking one question, CHAT was asked to leave the room.

Mr Stewart agrees far too many folk have to travel to Inverness for appointments, Raigmore is the most expensive place to deliver services and he, like us, wants to see more local clinics where possible for things like Orthodontics, paediatrics and obstetrics.

A more detailed account of the meeting is on CHAT’s Facebook page and contains far too much to try and reproduce here.

CHAT now have regular meetings with Maternity staff (CMU) in Caithness General Hospital. I attended one recently and personally found it very interesting to hear the staff’s experiences.

They are dedicated, hard-working and provide a great service to the Caithness mothers to be and I intend to highlight what the CMU do in a future article.

We continue to keep in touch with politicians like MP Jamie Stone, MSPs Rhoda Grant, Edward Mountain and David Stewart who have an interest in Health matters in Caithness and the north.

We recently met up with MP Jamie Stone following his request for a catch up. Jamie has always been very interested in what we do and of course is greatly concerned about the maternity situation. He was especially keen to hear about how we were looking into ways of helping a small group of Caithness mothers who, for a number of reasons, do not have private transport to take them and their new baby back home to Caithness, They have to rely on the bus or train and often are struggling to manage a new born and luggage by themselves. We now have some kits which convert our lay flat baby seats to “buggies” and we hope this might help.

CHAT have a representative on the NHS Highland steering group that is overseeing the Caithness Redesign programme so we can keep the public up-to-date with that.

Ron Gunn
Vice Chair Chat