Thursday, December 23, 2010

Residents of remote villages in fight to save medical cover, we should all back them, they have a solid case, we have a moral duty to fund

Dear All

It is a fact of life that if you stay in outlying areas that you cannot expect to have the same services that we all take for granted in the big city.

Staying in ‘the boonies’ has advantages and disadvantages, one being that the most remote communities on the British mainland have trouble fighting to keep out-of-hours medical cover.

Five Highland villages on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula have been told by their local health board that two district nurses will no longer be able.

They will be limited to a 9am to 5pm service, cool comfort in an emergency.

Such is their concern that they have contacted senior politicians asking them to intervene the matter will now raise the matter with NHS Highland.

We are talking about 250 residents live in Kilchoan, Glenborrodale, Portuairk, Sanna, and Kilmory on a single track road on the peninsula.

If the district nurses, who live in Kilchoan, are no longer able to take out-of-hours calls, villagers will have to rely a service from GPs in Acharacle 40 minutes away by road.

I think 40 minutes is far too long a time to wait, can you imagine trying to do CPR for 40 minutes?

It is unacceptable and sometimes health boards do have to take the hit and fund areas like this, commonsense dictates the need is important.

Also the two local GPs also want the nurses to continue, probably from a practical level.

Campaigners have told politicians:

“The nearest ambulance is a minimum of one-and-a-quarter hours away but has taken four hours to reach us. Our doctors are an hour away, and the nearest Accident and Emergency department (at Fort William) is two hours away. NHS Highland has given us very little notice. They have not consulted with us or with our local practice, nor has there been an evaluation of the impact of the move, for example on additional costs of GPs and helicopter medivac resources. We have had many assurances from NHS Highland that the nurses would not be withdrawn. Our 10 new First Responders (who provide early intervention until an ambulance arrives) completed their training over the last few months on the clear understanding that the nurses would be available to support them. They all intend to resign when the nurses are withdrawn.”

I would hope that politicians would dig into the reserve and give the Highland Health Board, the extra cash.

Sue Cheadle, a crofter at Sanna, said:

“My daughter suffers from epilepsy, so we are extremely concerned about what will happen in February when the current nurses’ out-of-hours cover ceases. Early last year, two weeks after her baby was born, my daughter had a seizure and stopped breathing. Although we phoned the ambulance, we knew it wouldn’t get here in time to save her. It must have been the worst and longest moments of my life. Thankfully, within 15 minutes of our 999 call, our district nurse arrived and administered emergency treatment. By the time the ambulance finally arrived 50 minutes later, my daughter was out of danger – thanks to the nurse’s quick response. We’re worried sick about the future.”

This case study should be more than enough.

Tracy Ligema, locality manager for Mid Highland Community Health Partnership, explained the health board’s decision:

“The district nurse service in Kilchoan is not being withdrawn but, in time, we will be stopping the specific on-call cover. By doing this Ardnamurchan will have a district nurse service similar to other areas in NHS Highland and indeed areas throughout NHS Scotland. In all other locations, including remote and rural, out-of-hours primary care is provided by NHS Highland GP cover supported by access through NHS24 for initial triage and advice. More urgent care and provision of an emergency response is the clear responsibility of the Scottish Ambulance Service.”

She added:

“It is clear that the provision currently in place is not sustainable as it diverts nursing services away from essential daytime work and requires nurses to stay away on a regular basis. A review of the activity has shown that there are a small number of calls, the majority of which are for minor illness or injury which do not require immediate response. As has been discussed with staff and the community council, we have to be mindful of the future availability of staff to carry out these duties.”

Having read Tracy’s version of ‘live on mars’, I am not backing her.

The Ardnamurchan case isn’t the first case of this nature as there is continuing campaign by 600 residents in and around Kinloch Rannoch in Perthshire.

The ‘rednecks’ in the provinces still want the restoration of GP out-of-hours cover which was withdrawn in May 2006 and they can whistle!

The people of the Ardnamurchan Peninsula have a case which the Scottish Government should bite the bullet and ensure that the required resources are made available.

Sometimes, decisions can’t always be about money and if you have to take the hit you do so.

I hope sense and grit is sued in talks with Highland Health Board and the people get the help, to not do so would be a dereliction and sad indictment on those involved.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

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