CHAT column, September 2018

First published in John O’Groat Journal in September 2018

Well the 3 month public consultation on the NHS Highland redesign proposals has begun. A public meeting in Wick on August 20th started the ball rolling, followed by a meeting in Thurso on the 21st. During the next couple of months I hope to keep you updated on the progress.

What is a public consultation? I found the following definition. ‘Public consultation is a means to give the people a stronger and clearer voice in the policy process; it is likely to increase the influence of the public and to contribute to restoring confidence in the democratic process and the decisions of government.’

Both meetings were covered by this paper but I want to mention a couple of things. In Thurso, maternity concerns were raised several times. In my opinion maternity issues in Caithness do justify further debate. Can I suggest NHS Highland Board members and medical experts come to a public meeting in Caithness and listen to people’s concerns.

A member of the audience said, “We have had consultations before and no notice was taken of what we said.” NHS Highland needs to reassure the public that their views will be listened to.

In Wick the question was asked, “Why does the medical centre have to be moved to the new Hub?” This is also a question that merits further discussion.

NHS Highland would like to hear the views and thoughts on the proposals from as many organisations, groups and members of the public as possible. During the consultation period they are holding over 40 meetings and consultations to obtain feedback from folk.

Prior to the public meetings a new consultation group was formed, made up of people who attended the redesign meetings. The group consists of NHS Highland managers and staff including doctors and a nurse, local Councillors and representatives from local organisations. I am part of the group as a CHAT member.

This group will oversee the consultation process and help keep the community updated on issues raised. For example, the group heard that when the MIU in Dunbar is shut there is a feeling among the public that they do not believe there is no staff. The Senior charge nurse who arranges shift cover for the MIU told the group just how many hours she has spent at home trying to get staff to cover shifts during sickness and the pressures on staff who are already fully stretched.

I think the upgrade of CGH and the proposed hubs are good news for Caithness, but the fine detail needs to be ironed out. The folk of Wick have the added problem of deciding which site the Hub should go to. Contrary to recent reports, CHAT supports the idea of the hubs but want to ensure the public get as much information as possible on the proposals so that they can then make an informed decision. It is crucial that as many people as possible make their views heard. For NHS Highland to approach the Scottish Government for the £30 million funding one of the things they have to show is that the public are behind the proposals.

Some of you will be aware Nicola Sinclair has resigned from CHAT. We would like to thank her for her previous commitment and hard work and wish her all the best for the future

Ron Gunn
Vice Chair CHAT

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