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.’
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