Pictured left to right are: Lloyd Gudgeon, Jill Westgarth, Katherine Gillies, Anne Gillies, Rhoda Grant, John W Gillies and Tekela Koek.

 

Highlands and Island's MSP Rhoda Grant is the latest politican to give her backing to Raasay's fight for improved out of hours medical cover.

After travelling over to the island she said: "I am supporting the Raasay community in its campaign to have a professional nursing presence 24/7 after visiting the island this week to talk to Raasay Community Council and Raasay Development Trust, and being persuaded by residents’ arguments.

"I feel that if the island is to develop economically and socially, the presence of a nurse, in the evenings and at weekends, would provide reassurance and security both for residents and visitors, especially in the absence of an easily accessible GP.

"Ideally any nurse serving Raasay should be able to deal with children under 16, a service which current NHS Highland protocol says cannot be provided.

"What struck me was the genuine concerns of the community and the undisputable fact that they are in a very vulnerable situation, separated from health services by a stretch of water and a ferry service which doesn’t run over night and has a limited service on Sundays.

"While the health authority argues that emergency calls will be covered, by use of the lifeboat or helicopter, I am still worried about the ability to deliver community care and community health on the island and the fact that NHS Highland will be relying on volunteers through first responders to fill in the gaps.

"What will happen if a child breaks an arm after hours when the nurse is no longer on the island, the ferry isn’t running and the GP and hospital is separated by many miles and a stretch of water? What happens for the elderly who are being cared for at home for a serious illness when they need extra pain relief but the pain killers are locked away in the nurse’s centre and there’s no health professional on the island to administer them?

"On the mainland, there are choices – a trip to the GP after hours, an ambulance, a drive to A and E. Even with NHS24, the island is being left exposed and I am anxious that the health care needs of islanders are not being met.”

"I am calling on the NHS Highland to rethink and advertise the 24/7 nursing post again, showing the island in a positive light, and to consider upgrading the post to advanced nursing skills. If NHS Highland worked with both the GPs and with the Scottish Ambulance Service to provide nurse practitioners who could fill the roles of a community and practice nurse as well as those of a paramedic, they would lead the way in delivering rural health care. The needs of our rural and island communities cannot be met by protocols drawn up for teams working in more urban areas. It is sad that NHS Highland which should be taking the lead in this kind of provision have walked away from the situation.

"When I visited Raasay I also heard that the drug fridge in the nurse’s base has broken down which meant that some elderly and vulnerable people needed to travel to Portree to get their flu jab this year. This is unacceptable, a four-hour round trip, or a day trip if you depend on public transport. NHS Highland really need to take a long look at the service they, and the Scottish Ambulance Service, provide to Raasay.

"What is clear from my visit to the island is that the community very much value the input of community nurses and want this to be strengthened to provide a service that assists with emergencies and palliative care as well.

Anne Gillies, Chair of Raasay Community Council said: "Since July 2015 NHS Highland has denied Raasay equity of access to out of hours urgent care. This is a serious social injustice and we are grateful to Mrs Grant for listening to our concerns and offering her support."

The MSP added: "I am going to contact NHS Highland, Humza Yousaf, Minister for Transport and the Islands, who has already visited the island and offered to take up the issue after being briefed on the case, plus Fergus Ewing, in his role as Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity and on the issue of sustaining and developing Raasay, as well as the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Shona Robison."