Skye rural health care centre of excellence “would truly meet needs” of Highland communities

Former Skye and Raasay councillor, Professor Ronald MacDonald has said that a new medical school on Skye rather than Inverness “would truly meet the needs of all the Highland communities”

Last week the Scottish Conservatives announced plans for a medical school in the Highland capital which will form part of the party’s manifesto for the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections and will aim to “address the NHS recruitment crisis” affecting the Highlands and Western Isles.”

Conservative Highlands and Island MSP Donald Cameron said the plans sent “a clear message to people planning a career in the NHS” that the party “take their ambitions seriously and will provide first-class professional development opportunities in the heart of the Highlands.”

Mr Cameron also said the SNP Government had “mismanaged NHS workforce planning…”

Professor MacDonald stepped down from his role as a Highland Councillor in December after two and a half years as a local representative for the islands. He said the decision was made in part so he could spend more time working on the implementation of Sir Lewis Ritchie’s health care recommendations for Skye, Lochalsh and South West Ross.

Professor Ronald MacDonald.

Mr MacDonald, who is a Research Professor of Macroeconomics and International Finance in the Adam Smith Business School at the University of Glasgow, welcomed plans by the Scottish Conservatives to commit extra resources for a new medical school. However, he told the Free Press that he agreed with the sentiments of SNP MSP Kate Forbes who in response to the proposals said that Inverness “sucks up resources intended for the rest of the Highlands.”

He said: “I share the concerns of Kate Forbes MSP about this new facility being in the city of Inverness. Inverness is one small part of a huge geographic area that includes areas of rurality and extreme rurality, such as north Skye. As part of the Ritchie implementation process, the community in north Skye is involved, along with multi-agency partners, in developing proposals for creating a national centre of excellence for education, training and professional support in rural health and social care.

“This pathbreaking work has as at its core the need to actually train clinicians in areas of rurality given that conditions there are very different from those in urban areas. My concern about placing a new medical school in Inverness is that it will simply compound the existing structure of having all of Scotland’s medical schools located in cities, and completely miss the need to have an appropriate structure dovetailed for the needs of the Highland area.

Professor MacDonald went on to add: “There is surely an opportunity here to create a medical school which would truly meet the needs of all of our Highland communities, and I believe the work that has begun on Skye offers insight into how this should be done.

“I would also say that any new Highland-based medical school should not just focus on GP provision but the full range of clinical training from nurses, paramedics and allied health professionals through to rural GPs. Perhaps a devolved model along the original intention of the creators of UHI (University of the Highlands and Islands) would be the way to go in this regard.”

Article by Adam Gordon