Health Services (Highlands and Islands)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 23 November 2023.

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Photo of Jamie Halcro Johnston Jamie Halcro Johnston Conservative

4. To ask the Scottish Government how many health services across the Highlands and Islands have been downgraded or lost entirely over the last 16 years. (S6O-02776)

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

It is for territorial national health service boards and their planning partners to organise and provide high-quality services that meet the needs of local people, in line with national guidelines and frameworks. Clearly, those services are developed over time to account for factors such as changes in clinical best practice and significant technological developments.

When it comes to the Government’s commitment to and investment in local health services, the resource budget of just NHS Highland has increased in real terms by 19.5 per cent between 2010-11 and 2023-24, and in cash terms by 83.1 per cent—£348.6 million—between 2006-07 and 2023-24.

Photo of Jamie Halcro Johnston Jamie Halcro Johnston Conservative

Sixteen years of Scottish National Party mismanagement has seen a running down of our rural health services. Maternity provision has been downgraded in Caithness and Moray, general practitioners are undergoing pressure across the region, and our ambulance crews are increasingly stretched. Many of our more remote and vulnerable communities have lost out.

At a meeting of Sir Lewis Ritchie’s steering group in June this year, NHS Highland committed to providing urgent care and minor injuries cover at Portree hospital, seven days a week, by the end of October. That has still not happened. Will the cabinet secretary tell me and my constituents in north Skye when they will get that vital service back in Portree for seven days a week, as they were promised?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

Jamie Halcro Johnston will be aware that some of the changes that have been made to specific services in the Highlands have come about as a result of safety issues. For example, the issue of the midwife-led service in Caithness was the result of the death of a full-term baby in 2015. The independent review of that made recommendations on why changes had to take place in order to improve safety in the delivery of that service.

When it comes to the provision of services as set out in the Ritchie report, Professor Ritchie is engaging with the health board and local stakeholders to make sure that there is resilience in the provision of urgent care services in Portree for seven days a week. That work is on-going. The board is also working very closely with the Scottish Ambulance Service to ensure that that service is resilient.

Jamie Halcro Johnston will also be aware that we have just invested £27.7 million in the new Broadford hospital to provide additional clinical services in the area.