The Cabinet Secretary for Health Jeane Freeman will visit Skye and Lochalsh on Monday (27th May) with constituency MSP Kate Forbes.
Ms Freeman will be taken on a tour of Portree Hospital before meeting with GPs from Portree and Dunvegan medical practices. She is then due to meet with local community members, Highland Councillors and representatives from NHS Highland at the Tigh-na-Sgire offices, where she will be given an overview of the current status of the implementation process for Sir Lewis Ritchie’s health care recommendations for Skye, Lochalsh and South West Ross.
The health secretary is also expected to hear from members of the Skye and Lochalsh Access Panel during her engagements in Portree.
For the next leg of her visit, Ms Freeman will travel to Broadford Hospital where she will first be taken on a tour of the hospital and then meet with the project team for the new hospital which was given the green light by the Scottish Government last week and is earmarked to be open by spring 2021.
The Free Press will be in attendance during the health secretary’s Broadford trip and expect to have an opportunity to speak to Ms Freeman after her tour of the hospital.
The final part of the visit will comprise meetings held at Lochalsh Health Centre, where Ms Freeman will speak to community councillors from south Skye, Lochalsh and South West Ross before liaising with members of the Glenelg community and Ritchie Report facilitator for Glenelg and Arnisdale Dr Miles Mack.
The health secretary’s trip will culminate in a final engagement with Ms Forbes, Sir Lewis Ritchie, interim NHS Highland Chair Boyd Robertson and NHS Highland Chief Executive Iain Stewart.
The health secretary visit follows an invitation from Ms Forbes last year.
Commenting on the forthcoming visit, Ms Forbes said: “Since her appointment, I’ve had a number of encouraging conversations with Jeane Freeman about ensuring excellent healthcare is delivered locally in Skye, Raasay and Lochalsh.
She added: “I know that she will be keen to see progress on Ritchie Report and hear directly from people about their experiences.”
Eilean a ‘Cheo Councillor John Finlayson will attend the meeting in Kyle, which will be chaired Ritchie Report facilitator Maggie Cunningham.
Speaking to the Free Press he said: “It is important that this engagement covers the progress being made with the Ritchie report and the challenges facing north Skye, Raasay and Glenelg, and the redesign programme and the building of the new hospital in Broadford.
“I am sure her time in Skye and Lochalsh will be very illuminating and will indicate the many concerns of resident across the area.”
Councillor Ronald MacDonald added: “‘I am looking forward to the Cabinet Secretary for Health’s visit next week, not least so that she can see for herself the complex nature of the socio-economic structure here and what it means for the provision of an equitable and accessible level of health and social care for our communities.
“It will also be an opportunity for her to learn at first-hand how the co-production model, between NHSH and other service providers, of the implementation of Sir Lewis Ritchie’s report, has worked here and how the model could be applied elsewhere in Scotland.”
Ms Freeman trip comes just over a year since the publication of Sir Lewis’ report. Sir Lewis’ independent view outlined a raft of recommendations ranging from urgent care at Portree Hospital to transport and accessibility issues across Skye, Lochalsh and South West Ross.
Since the release of the independent review, 15 different working groups have been convening to determine how to implement the recommendations.
Sir Lewis is expected to visit the area the following day (Tuesday 28th May) to assess the progress of his recommendations. His visit will conclude with a public meeting to held at Portree High School starting at 6.30 pm.
Article by Adam Gordon.