Health Care (North of Scotland)

Health and Community Care – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:00 pm on 9th December 2004.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Maureen Macmillan Maureen Macmillan Labour 2:00 pm, 9th December 2004

To ask the Scottish Executive what action it is taking to improve health care in the north of Scotland. (S2O-4526)

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour

We fully support NHS boards in the north of Scotland to deliver health care locally that meets the needs and improves the health of their people. Improvements in the north of Scotland include plans for a renal dialysis unit in Fort William; chemotherapy being delivered locally in Orkney and the Western Isles and being developed in Shetland; cataract surgery being delivered in Orkney; development of a cardiac rehabilitation centre; and a vastly improved accident and emergency service at Raigmore.

Photo of Maureen Macmillan Maureen Macmillan Labour

The minister has missed out the commitment on dental services, which has been particularly welcomed in Caithness.

This week, NHS Highland agreed to consult the community on what is being called the Caithness model of maternity care, which we hope will prove to be an innovative solution that will meet local aspirations. Will the minister ensure that Professor David Kerr, in his review of NHS delivery, holds a meeting in Wick to hear the views of the people of Caithness, that he travels there by road or rail and that similar meetings are held in the west Highlands and the islands?

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour

The review is independent and I can only put the member's view to Professor Kerr, which I am happy to do. Having driven in the area when I drove to Wick to visit the hospital, I understand some of the community's concerns about transport.

I, too, welcome the work that is being done on developing the Caithness model. It is interesting that we are solving problems in our health service by working with communities to seek community- based solutions that provide clinical governance arrangements that are suitable in today's modern health service. As long as we can ensure that those needs are addressed, I am happy to support the work of the health board. I welcome the work on the Caithness model and I will certainly pass on to Professor Kerr the member's wishes regarding a meeting in Wick.

Photo of George Lyon George Lyon Liberal Democrat

The minister will probably be aware of the outrage that exists in Campbeltown at the actions of NHS Argyll and Clyde in shutting the assessment ward there without any consultation with the community or community involvement of any sort and before alternative provisions had been put in place to deal with patients who would normally use the assessment ward. Will the minister intervene and ask the health board to reverse that decision until proper consultation has been carried out, there is community involvement and proper community-based provision has been put in place to replace the facilities at the assessment ward?

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour

On many occasions, I have extolled to health board chiefs and chairs the virtues of ensuring genuine consultation on such sensitive issues. To be blunt, tough decisions have to be made on the viability of services on clinical grounds, but I expect the issues to be discussed in the affected communities.

On George Lyon's particular point, I am aware of some of the concerns that the community has expressed and I have said frequently to all health boards, including Argyll and Clyde NHS Board, that, before decisions are made about closures, they must be clear about the alternatives that they will provide to communities for services that might be reduced through the reconfiguration of local services. I am happy to correspond with Argyll and Clyde NHS Board on its decision, in George Lyon's view, to close a service without local facilities being made available to those who will suffer from the loss of the service.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

The minister will be aware of the west Highland health solutions group's excellent, cross-party, non-partisan work with regard to Oban hospital and Belford hospital in Fort William, which has provided a pilot interim solution. Does he agree that it would be extremely useful to meet the consultants who have given of their expertise and experience so that he can discuss the aim—which all parties support—of ensuring that rural general hospitals provide acute care 24/7 in places such as Oban and Fort William in my constituency and hear the consultants' ideas on training, recruitment, the importation of elective surgery and the not-always-beneficial influence of the royal colleges? Will he meet David Sedgewick and others for a fruitful, productive and positive discussion on those issues?

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour

I am more than happy to meet those who provide solutions to some of the difficult issues that we have in the health service. The solutions group to which Fergus Ewing refers has done a sterling job and has brought to the surface issues around how rural general hospitals can work within the clinical governance arrangements that are necessary because of Scotland's demographics and the technological demands of our new health service. I praise the solutions group's work. It has done its communities a sterling service with the idea of developing a rural general hospital strategy. Professor David Kerr's work also plays into that. He has a work stream on rural provision of health care, into which some of the solutions group's work will feed.

I am always happy to meet the folk who have been directly involved in such work. I will seek the opportunity to do so in due course and I hope that the meeting will be productive, not only for me but for those involved, and will ensure that their work is not lost to the rest of the health service. We can learn from the techniques that they have adopted, their consultation processes and clinical governance arrangements, for which they have developed a highly successful model.