CHAT sends first batch of 1,000 protest postcards to First Minister
7th September 2017
Caithness Health Action Team (CHAT) has gathered 2,410 postcards from members of the public protesting the centralisation of health services under NHS Highland. The postcards carry the slogan ‘100 miles too far' in reference to the 100 mile journey patients frequently have to travel to receive basic care. In 2016 14,786 patients from Caithness and Sutherland travelled for appointments at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, many of which last only 5 minutes and could be conducted on the phone. Meanwhile, around 90% of maternity patients now give birth in Inverness, and many mothers are making the journey down the A9 without an ambulance, whilst in labour.
Members of the community have written comments on the postcards, sharing their own healthcare stories and protesting against any further downgrades to hospital services. Many people have used the postcards to express their fear that the maternity changes could result in tragedy, while others comment on their experiences travelling to Raigmore for basic healthcare procedures. Centralisation is a common theme across the board.
CHAT is sending a first batch of 1,000 postcards to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and is inviting Cabinet Secretary Shona Robison to travel to Caithness for a meeting with CHAT, where she can accept the remaining 1,410 in person. Ms Robison has previously agreed to meet with CHAT in Edinburgh but has not committed to making the journey to Wick. CHAT previously issued a petition to Ms Robison carrying more than 6,000 signatures.
CHAT Chairman Bill Fernie said: ‘The strength of feeling in the community cannot be overestimated. Between the recent maternity downgrade, the scandalous number of patients making a 200+ mile round trip for 5 minute appointments and now the bed review, there's a real sense that healthcare is being centralised and Caithness in particular will feel the brunt of NHS Highland's budget cuts. We hope the Scottish Government will finally decide to intervene in this situation.’
Nicola Sinclair, Councillor and CHAT founding member said: ‘NHS Highland frequently blame the lack of healthcare services in Caithness on staffing shortages, but it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: the threat of closure has hovered over our hospitals for decades, and recruitment efforts have been piecemeal at best, so it’s little wonder they are now short of staff and running up huge bills for locum cover. This is a failure in workforce planning and in innovation. Closure and centralisation is not the answer, and we’ll continue to campaign for safer local services.’
The Convener of The Highland Council's Caithness Area Committee, Councillor David Flear, has joined the call for health bosses to consider upgrading maternity services at Caithness General Hospital. Councillor Flear intends raising the matter at the next Area Committee meeting on Monday 15 September and expects to send a firmly worded response to the Highland Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, who are currently reviewing maternity services provided in Wick as part of a Scotland-wide review.
7:00am, 8:00am, 9:00am - possibly throughout the day George Bruce Interviews on Moray Firth Radio News 12:00 Noon Demonstration Begins At Caithness General Hospital 12:01pm Toot Your Horn Campaign Begins Motorist are being asked to toot their horns as they pass the demonstration at Caithness General 12:05pm Professor Calder Team Arrives Wick Airport 12:15pm Press Conference At Wick Airport 12:40pm Professor Calder Team Arrival Expected Caithness General 1:00pm Council Press Conference At Wick Town Hall Area Convenor David Flear will lead the press conference with Jenny Spence, League of Friends, Jamie Stone MSP. George Bruce, Caithness & North Sutherland Health Forum and two mothers.
The visit of Professor Andrew Calder to Wick on Monday 15 December had a big profile as it gained mentions on Moray Firth Radio, BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Scotland Television News. Repeat mentions on several news broadcasts are ensuring the issue is highlighted.
Tune in to Moray Firth Radio to hear George Bruce chairman of the Caithness & North Sutherland Health Forum being interviewed about the current Maternity Review to coincide with Professor Calder's visit to Caithness General Hospital. Listen on radio or on the web by going to Moray Firth Radio web site and click on Listen.
A variety of groups that involve young mothers is likely to arrive with pushchairs and prams on Monday. Several groups from around Caithness intend to be represented at the Noon Demonstration with several intending to attend both the noon and 6:00pm demos.
As local feeling continues to rise on the Maternity Services issue in Caithness confirmation has been given that a second demonstration will take place at 6:00pm at Caithness General Hospital on Monday 15th. The first demo will happen to coincide with the arrival of Professor Calder and his team as part of the review.
Posters in Caithness supporting the demonstrations at Caithness General Hospital on Monday 15 December have turned a current Television advertising campaign for flights from Inverness airport on its head. Whilst the TV ad shows how great it is that you can now fly to many places from Inverness the posters bring home the point that few in the north want the same service for delivering babies up to 130 miles away..
Caithness Area Convenor David Flear is receiving the biggest correspondence he has ever received on any topic by a huge margin. Mail is arriving every day by post and email is constantly popping in to add weight to his arguments.
Caithness Convenor David Flear will lead a Highland Council Press Conference at Wick Town Hall on Monday 15th at 1:00pm time in the Wick Town Hall. Councillor Flear will chair the briefing.
Professor Calder is to hold a short press conference at Wick Airport shortly after he arrives. With interest in the visit now coming under intense scrutiny he is likely to face a barrage of questions from reporters.
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