More beds a health priority for north Skye

Anne Gillies (Raasay Community Council), Tracey Ligema (NHS Highland), Dr Karen Le Ball and Dr Hannah MacLeod were part of the panel at the information sessions.

Campaigners have made the case for more community care and hospital beds for north Skye at a series of meetings held to discuss future health provision in the district.

The third of three information sessions, to garner views on the future shape of services for north Skye and Raasay, was held last week.

Medical professionals, health board officials and community representatives participated on the panel discussions which focussed on subjects ranging from an ageing population to housing and staff recruitment problems.

The process now moves on to three options appraisal workshops which will make a business case for the services the community are calling for.

SOS-NHS Skye chair Mairi MacDonald (second left) said that a more flexible outlook might be required.

Mairi Macdonald, who chairs the pressure group SOS-NHS Skye said: “The information sessions went well. There was agreement from everyone that what we have is not working properly and we need to look at what may work better in the future – maybe a more flexible outlook for beds, housing and staffing.

“It is evident that there are not enough beds in the hospitals or homes as people are going off the island for care while waiting for a bed in a home in Skye. Hopefully, through the next process, we can come up with a solution which will help this situation in the future, but we also need to look at what we do in the meantime.”

Ms MacDonald hoped the work being done in North Skye and Raasay could set a precedent in other remote and rural areas and urged people to complete a local questionnaire.

Members of the north Skye community listen to the panel during the first meeting held in February

Her fellow campaigner Catriona MacDonald added: “There was a clear message from the three information sessions: that more community care and hospital beds are needed in north Skye.

“Portree has the second fastest growing population in Highland and our population is ageing with an increasing number of people having multiple health conditions. Many care home places have been lost in the last 10 years and our remote rural location, with pockets of deprivation, means that there are significant extra costs for people and their relatives in accessing hospital care that need to be considered when decisions are being made about what is needed.

“Looking to the future we need a range of settings – from suitable housing to GP run community beds. We need dedicated beds for palliative care, respite and rehabilitation, and these should be designed to be accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities. Flexible buildings and co-locating services and staff would be more efficient and will probably need new premises.”

Norman Sutherland chaired the three information session meetings which took place at Portree High School.

Meetings chair Norman Sutherland, from the health care consultancy firm Higher Ground, hoped the bed and capacity related issues, as outlined by Sir Lewis Ritchie’s report into the area’s health services, would be addressed.

He said: ” I have been particularly impressed by the willingness of the community across Skye to actively engage in the process alongside NHS Highland and am convinced that this active co-production will deliver an exciting future model that addresses the bed and capacity related issues in Sir Lewis Ritchie’s report. I also believe that this demonstrates an improving relationship between NHS Highland and the public and look forward to the option appraisal workshops with genuine excitement.”

The first options appraisal workshop takes place today (Thursday 5th March) at 4.30pm at Aros in Portree, followed by further meetings on Tuesday 17th (4.30pm at Aros) and on Thursday 16th April (4.30pm at Portree High School).

To take part in the local questionnaire and for more detailed information on the three meetings to date – click here.

Article by Keith MacKenzie.