BY MICHAEL RUSSELL
As Skye and Lochalsh MSP David Thompson continues to press the issue of a new hospital for the area, further details have emerged covering the reasons why NHS Highland axed endoscopy services from the area’s hospital in Broadford.
Last week during parliamentary questions Mr Thompson pressed Health Secretary Alex Neil on when people of the locality could expect a new hospital to be built.
He said: “In discussions following general question time, the cabinet secretary confirmed that he is to meet with the chair and chief executive of NHS Highland later this month and that he will raise the ending of endoscopy services with them then. He also confirmed that, as the new hospital is a designated major service change, ministers will have a formal role in considering whether to approve NHS Highland’s decision and an announcement on funding would follow when this work has been completed
“I would urge NHS Highland to agree the new hospital as quickly as possible, so that it can be approved by Ministers, built and enhanced services delivered to Skye as quickly as possible.”
In an email to Mr Thompson, NHS Highland chairman Garry Coutts gave further details of the reasons behind the scrapping of endoscopy services at the MacKinnon Memorial Hospital in Broadford.
He said: “NHS Highland looked at decontamination of endoscopes and the options for bringing all of the units in Highland up to modern standards. That work has recently been completed with significant upgrades now in place in Belford, Caithness, Lorn and Island and Raigmore.
“However, an upgrade to the facilities in the MacKinnon was ruled out and so was not included in the plans. The current area could not be modernised and as an alternative we looked at building an extension on the site. This was estimated at £450,000 (at the time) and would be around £500,000 currently and notably more than twice the costs to upgrade the other units.
“The proposal would still not ensure that the facilities were fit for purpose and had staffing implications due to proximity and patient flow considerations. We are simply not in a position to make such an investment, in what would amount to an interim arrangement, and a far from practical operational solution.”
Referring to the decontamination machine in the hospital, Mr Coutts added: “This year, the machine has broken down 14 times and a few weeks ago we had to cancel lists and call the engineer again. The contract for maintenance is no longer supported by the company and parts are no longer available. The parts that are being used have been stripped out of decommissioned machines elsewhere. It is difficult, if not impossible, to assure the quality of such a process. These are all problems which are not going to go away and would only have gotten worse.”
Mr Thompson said: “This is really not an acceptable situation for patients in Skye to have to travel, and very often stay overnight, so that these procedures can be carried out.
“The Cabinet Secretary confirmed to me he would be reviewing the decision to end endoscopy… and that NHS Highland will be discussing proposals for the new hospital at their next meeting in December.”
This week, a spokesman for Mr Neil said: “As Health Secretary Alex Neil explained to parliament last week, NHS Highland has stated that it has reluctantly decided to suspend endoscopy service provision at the MacKinnon Memorial Hospital because the decontamination facilities there are no longer compatible with current standards. Mr Neil has asked NHS Highland as a matter of urgency for a full report on why that decision has been made and what other options it has considered.”