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Caithness News Bulletins September 2004

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Health Issues Are Getting The Politicians Full Attention these Days
As Health Campaign All Over Scotland Begin To Come Together
Will They Get Your Vote Next Time Round?


Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Maureen Macmillan is supporting Glasgow MSP Bill Butler in his efforts to introduce direct elections to NHS Boards. Together with MSPs from other parties Mrs Macmillan has signed the motion for the private members bill, which will allow the “Direct Elections to National Health Service Boards (Scotland) Bill” to receive further consideration at the Scottish Parliament.

Speaking today Mrs Macmillan said, “There is a feeling amongst the public that NHS boards in carrying out current consultations do not respond to public opinion but rather operate seeking pre-determined results. There has been considerable local concern over health issues such as the future of health services in the West Highlands, out-of-hours GP cover and consultant-led maternity services at Caithness General. Arising with these issues is a growing feeling that outcomes are not greatly influenced by the local communities which the health board in the Highlands serve.

I feel that the time has come to introduce direct elections to health boards in Scotland to improve transparency in decision making and enhance accountability. Communities must feel their concerns and priorities are reflected by the health board and introducing direct elections for board members will improve the link back to our communities.”

Mrs Macmillan added,” The concept of holding direct elections for NHS boards is Labour Party policy but this strategy was not included in the partnership agreement - after negotiations with the Liberal Democrats.

Should direct elections to NHS boards be introduced the mechanisms for operating the system will have to be decided, including qualification for candidature, voting method, length of service and geographical area
represented. That said I consider that such elections would result in health boards which better represent their local communities and are far more accountable.

I will continue to support Bill Butler’s proposed legislation through the Scottish Parliament.”

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Maureen Macmillan has written to NHS Highland regarding the ongoing consultation on maternity services in
Caithness and renewing her call for consultants to be rotated between Wick and Inverness.

In the letter Mrs Macmillan said, “It seems to me that a safe consultant led service could be maintained if there were much closer working between consultants at Raigmore and Wick. An option which has not appeared in your consultation documents is one that I raised with Professor Calder when I met him in Wick and which I raised in the Parliamentary debate on 11 March – namely that consultants should rotate between Raigmore and Wick so that the Wick based consultants would see enough cases to keep up their skills and
there would be a greater opportunity for professional networking. Professor Calder went on to mention the possibility of consultants working across the two sites in his report.

Mrs Macmillan added, “In replying to the debate on 11 March Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm said specifically that NHS Highland should explore this
option, an opinion he continues to hold. I realise that the proposal will require an increased number of consultants and change in working practices, but it should make it easier to attract suitable people to Wick and sustain their skills, thereby maintaining the consultant led service.”

Speaking today Mrs Macmillan commented, “What is important is that every possible solution to the Caithness maternity issue is examined so that the consultant led services can be maintained at the Caithness Maternity Unit. I have never been one for gesture politics but I am interested in constructive progress. I have been in dialogue with the Health Minister regarding this issue on several occasions now and will continue to do all within my power to deliver a final solution acceptable to the people of Caithness.”


'The threat to Scotland's Hospitals will not be lifted until enough doctors and consultants are trained', that was the warning from Rob Gibson MSP for the Highlands and Islands after he questioning the Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm at the Health Committee at Holyrood this afternoon.

Mr Gibson said....."The Scottish Executive has been in government for 5 years however they have singularly failed to address this fundamental problem in specialisms related to maternity issues. The First Minister claimed that more doctors, nurses and consultants have been trained. Where are those with maternity skills? Centralisation threatens Caithness General and the Belford which is the Highland embodiment of that neglect. When the minister says the clinicians and health boards 'have to get imaginative' will he take powers to ensure that happens?"

Mr Gibson also pressed the Minister on whether or not the National Framework Advisory Committee (which will investigate the proposed health cuts over the winter) will take into account the geography of Scotland. Mr Gibson commented "It is important that the committee takes a look at the bigger picture and realises that Scotland's geography necessitates special measures. I have consistently advocated a rotation system to staff the consultant-led Caithness maternity service between hospitals in Wick, Inverness and Aberdeen. This is one way to ensure that the people of the North get a fully functioning health service that suits their needs and geography. I will be interested to see what the Minister's Advisory Committee proposes."


'Show your commitment to Caithness Maternity' is Rob Gibson's challenge to Jamie Stone and Maureen Macmillan.

The SNP MSP challenge comes after the Liberal Democrat MSP for Caithness and Sutherland and Easter Ross and Labour list MSP for the Highlands and Islands have yet to sign Dr Jean Turner's parliamentary motion that calls for a moratorium on centralisation of NHS services in Scotland, until a national strategy is formed.

Mr Gibson said..."This is a motion that deserves the support of all MSP's in Scotland let alone those in the Highlands and Islands. The threat of downgrading and centralisation touches the majority of people who live in the remote areas of the region and it would be nothing short of a disgrace if it was not supported by those MSP's who represent the area and claim to support 24/7 maternity services in Caithness."

Text of Jean Turner's motion and list of signatories taken on 13/9/04
S2M-1656 Dr Jean Turner: Centralisation of Health Services in Scotland-That the Parliament is concerned about the centralisation of health services across Scotland; believes that there must be a clear national strategy for the future structure of the NHS in Scotland, and therefore calls on the Scottish Executive to suspend all planned reorganisations while a national strategy is developed involving the public and health professionals. Supported by: Mr David Davidson, Christine Grahame, Bruce Crawford, Murray Tosh, John Swinburne, Campbell Martin, Mrs Nanette Milne, Stewart Stevenson, Alex Neil, Tommy Sheridan, Mr Stewart Maxwell, Alex Fergusson, Bill Aitken, Rob Gibson, Eleanor Scott, Jim Mather, Mr Bruce McFee, Shona Robison, Ms Rosemary Byrne, Tricia Marwick, Mary Scanlon, Fiona Hyslop, Chris Ballance, Patrick Harvie, Miss Annabel Goldie, Robin Harper*, Nicola Sturgeon*, Fergus Ewing*