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Statement To CHAT From Labour Candidate Olivia Bell

15th May 2017

Caithness Health Action Team.

CHAT's decision to withdraw from the Caithness Maternity and Gynaecological Group should make every politician sit up and take notice.

It shows the strength of feeling and distrust from the community and it’s hard to see how that can be bridged to begin a dialogue again.

Health, as everyone already knows, is a devolved issue and the responsibility of the Scottish Government. And, as every CHAT campaigner also knows, the SNP’s Health Secretary regularly bats any problems back to NHS Highland burdened by having to make £100million of cuts in the next three years.

Meantime at risk pregnant women are having to travel to Raigmore to give birth and this can be very stressful, for not just for the mothers, but their partners and other members of the family.

Add to that concerns over the future of Dunbar Hospital, its staffing problems, shortage of GPs, missed waiting time targets and issues over the lack of Patient Transport, especially in Sutherland, and people are really worried that the area will be the forgotten region when it comes to health care.

While it is extremely hard to argue against health experts, both internal and external, who have said that previous maternity services at Caithness General were too risky for some pregnant women, CHAT is right to continue to push for better services and not give up the fight. Experts tend to find solutions when people refuse to give up.

If elected, I would work hard to increase investment in rural health and push for more innovative programmes to be introduced, modelled and centred on the more remote areas of the region. Vital would be keeping consultants' skills up to date, while still serving patients in rural areas and finding more money for local facilities.

I would liaise with Scottish Labour MSPs who have already backed a 1p increase on the basic rate of income tax to invest in public services such as the NHS, social security and education. Those earning less than £21,000 would see no change and someone on £28,000 would pay £65 a year in extra tax.

At Westminster, Labour has already said it would "renationalise" the health service and bring services back into public hands.

The future of our health service is too important to leave in the hands of the Tories, who want to strip it and privatise it, or the SNP who want to centralise services and starve the NHS of cash so cuts have to be made year on year. This is now coming home to the people of Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross.

There must be a solution in Caithness which will satisfy the community.

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