NHS Highland (Dunbar Hospital)

Scottish Executive Question Time — General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:40 am on 7th October 2010.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat 11:40 am, 7th October 2010

To ask the Scottish Executive what discussions it is having with NHS Highland regarding the future of Dunbar hospital. (S3O-11656)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

I have recently written to the member on this important matter and confirmed that I am aware that services at Dunbar hospital are currently being examined as a part of a wider review of services throughout west Caithness by NHS Highland. I have asked the board to keep me informed as the review progresses. The board has been clear that its objective is to ensure that services in the area meet the needs of local people, that they remain of the highest quality and that they continue to offer best value for taxpayers' investment.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat

I look forward to receiving the cabinet secretary's letter.

NHS Highland does not appear to be listening to the people on the ground at all with regard to providing what is best for the area. Local people did not want an office-hours accident and emergency service in Thurso and they did not agree to four beds being removed from the hospital. Will the cabinet secretary look into why the views of local people are not being taken into account and see whether she can bring this to a stop?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

I will make two points to Jamie Stone, both of which I hope will be helpful. As members appreciate, we have had debates on this issue frequently and will no doubt have them in the future. Health care is not delivered in a static way. Boards are always seeking to enhance and improve the quality of services that they provide in the community because, generally speaking, people want to be treated as close to home as possible and, as far as is possible, in their own community. That work often has an impact on in-patient services.

The second point is that I expect health boards to engage positively, constructively and meaningfully with local communities when they are contemplating change. I have made that crystal clear to a number of health boards on a number of occasions in relation to a number of issues. I will continue to make that clear to boards, including NHS Highland in this regard.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

Does the cabinet secretary recognise the need for respite beds for geriatric patients in this case? Local people are concerned about that issue. Will the projected need for beds at the Dunbar hospital be reduced by modern treatments?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

Rob Gibson is making the point that I made in my first answer. I do not want to pre-empt in any way the consultation that is under way with regard to Dunbar hospital and others in the area. As medical technology advances and the modes of delivery of health care progress, more people can be treated in the community, and the pattern of health services that we provide has to adapt over time to reflect that. That does not take away from the fact that I expect local communities to be fully involved in the discussions and decision making around all the decisions, which, on occasion, can be very difficult to make.