PORTREE BED PUSH: Protest at “shocking” NHS decisions

Last Saturday’s ‘bed push’ around Portree credit Willie Urquhart

Events which followed a public health protest in Portree last weekend have demonstrated exactly why such a show of concern was needed, according to the organisers.

A bed push round the village on Saturday, which was eventually given the go ahead by police, “helped to raise awareness of the fact that urgent care in Portree is practically non-existent”, said Fay Thomson, chair of Skye SOS NHS.  After the demonstration, a public meeting was held in the Skye Gathering Hall.

She added: “Community beds numbers are down to 31.  We had 73 beds and 8am to 11pm walk-in urgent care [in Portree Hospital] in 2018.  A show of hands by the 100 or so people in the Gathering Hall indicated that not one person knew when urgent care in Portree was open.”

A meeting with several senior NHS Highland officials, including chief executive Fiona Davies, on Monday did not improve matters.

“We had hoped we would get renewed commitment on the implementation of the Ritchie recommendations,” said Ms Thomson. “That wasn’t forthcoming but there were vague reassurances that previous agreements wouldn’t be withdrawn. NHS Highland refused to commit to opening any more beds at Portree Hospital.

“We were shocked to hear that the latest NHS Highland plan is to only provide weekend urgent care at Portree.  We were told that Portree Medical Practice provides urgent care 8am to 6pm on weekdays yet only last night [Monday] we had an email from a man who went to Portree Hospital after being bitten by a dog. He was told there was no urgent care at the hospital on weekdays and he should go to the medical centre.

“At the medical centre he was told they had no idea why the hospital was sending people to them because they don’t deal with urgent care. There was no doctor available to see him and they don’t stock the tetanus injections he needed.  He was then sent to Broadford,  where he and his partner described it as ‘bursting at the seams’.”

A Sir Lewis Ritchie Steering Group meeting on Tuesday was similarly disappointing.

“NHS Highland management are still maintaining Portree Medical Centre will provide weekday urgent care cover in Portree, so there’s a serious breakdown in communication here,” commented Ms Thomson. “Portree GPs have previously been emphatic in saying they neither have the staff or the physical space to provide urgent care at the medical centre.

“We simply can’t believe NHS Highland has the gall to propose a weekend only urgent care service at Portree.  It’s totally unacceptable and shows utter disrespect for the people of north Skye.”

NHS Highland were approached for comment but had not responded as we went to press.