Portree GPs U-turn on hospital plan

BY MICHAEL RUSSELL
michael.russell@whfp.co.uk

Portree GPs who formerly opposed the construction of a new hospital in Broadford now back the “bigger picture” of a superior facility serving Skye and parts of the mainland, it emerged this week.

With the NHS Highland board due to make a decision on the preferred location next week, the North Skye Action Group this week sent the Free Press a copy of a letter  which was dated 5th March and had been signed by all eight GPs with the Portree Medical Practice. The letter — a response to the health board’s consultation on the matter — laid out their reasons for opposing the new ‘hub’ being built in Broadford, with Portree the location for a ‘spoke’ facility.

“We consider that Portree is the logical location for this resource,” the letter stated.

However, this week, the Portree GPs endorsed a statement circulated by NHS Highland that pointed to a change of heart.

“They [the doctors] have been active members of the steering group and have conducted themselves with great integrity at all times,” the health authority said. “Our understanding is that, while ideally they would have liked any main single hospital site to be in Portree, their over-riding concern was that a new facility is built on the island.

“We believe that the practice will honour any decision and work alongside NHS Highland to develop a top-class facility in Broadford that will be superior to anything that exists at present.
“Should the board and the Cabinet Secretary back the proposals then it will be incumbent on us all to address any access issues.
“NHS Highland does not believe that anyone in the practice has had anything to do with the local action group campaign. They have been strong advocates for their patients at all times, but they can also see the bigger picture.”

Meanwhile, as of yesterday (Wednesday) the Save Portree Hospital Facebook campaign had accrued over 2,300 likes.

Campaigners on the page stated: “This page is about saving Portree Hospital from closure because that’s what NHS Highland appears to be planning.

“If, however, they surprise us and decide that the new hospital will be built in Portree and Broadford is to be downgraded to a clinic (i.e. closed as a hospital) then we will switch the campaign to lobby for Broadford to retain whatever services our local medical practi­tioners tell us that they need in the ‘spoke’ hospital.”

Comments on the page included one from Chris Stewart: “It’s a disgrace the way they are treating the people of Portree and beyond. If they close Portree Hospital the nearest medical facility is 32 miles away in Broadford. Any major surgery and the islanders have to go to Raigmore which from Portree by car is roughly 2hrs 30 min, by bus 3 hours.”

Sean Palmer said: “I sincerely hope that public pressure forces those that are proposing to shut down the services at Portree to do a U-turn.
“I will forever be grateful to the dedicated caring staff who made my dad’s (Raymond Palmer) final days as comfortable and dignified as possible.”