From left, Lloyd Gudgeon, Kate Earnshaw, Ross MacKenzie
Fifty people gathered in Raasay Community Hall as the local community met representatives of NHS Highland (NHSH) to discuss nursing cover on the island.
The meeting was chaired by Lloyd Gudgeon, the development officer for the Raasay Development Trust. District Manager for Skye, Lochalsh and Wester Ross, Kate Earnshaw and Area Manager (West), Ross MacKenzie, attended the meting to explain changes to the District Nursing Protocol, to outline what future steps could be taken and to answer questions from the floor.
Those attending raised concerns about emergency evacuations, out-of-hours care, primary care and the scheduled care they could expect.
Kate Earnshaw began by explaining that the protocol changes would result in nurses specialising in one particular area, as opposed to previously garnering multiple skills. She stated: "Before, we had nurses on the island who were triply and sometimes quadruply trained.
Nursing has changed considerably and we now have nurses whom we ensure are trained to strict guidelines and competencies. "The primary focus of a district nurse is for the vulnerable and housebound - those unable to access mainstream services." While a district nurse would focus mainly on assisting adults, a child would be on the case load of a school health nurse.
In response to claims that Raasay Primary School had no official notification that there had been any change in nursing protocol - changes that would directly affect the children - nor a schedule of when a nurse will be present on the island, Ms Earnshaw pledged to make sure that, on a weekly basis, a rota would be given, detailing the nurse and practitioner coming to the island and the times they would be doing so.
In response to questions about how much funding was dedicated to the island, Ms Earnshaw also promised to reveal to Mr Gudgeon the overall budget for Raasay and later discuss how best it can be used. A major source of discontent for the islanders was the fact that the advert for the nursing position was only run three times.
Ms Earnshaw replied that she had previously run an advert for a case-holder five times because "I couldn't operate without one."
However, the audience demanded to know why they were expected to manage without a nurse? Ms Earnshaw responded that the attempts at recruitment had not been successful as the "ongoing commitment to the island was unpalatable to people. We absolutely have to get our of hours coverage, but we won't get that the way we had it before. We have to look at a new sustainable plan option for Raasay."
Replying to claims that the 9-5 nursing cover was not being carried out, Ms Earnshaw summarised the situation, saying: "I am looking for an on-call commitment based within the existing staff team. You need a practitioner of some description, but it doesn't have to be nurse."
Mr MacKenzie also said: "The intention is to have a nurse here 9-5. If that's not possible, we will look into it and find out why." Overall, after a two-and-a-half hour meeting, attendees were not satisfied. One member of the audience told the NHSH representatives that he felt " safer on a ship because I have more medical support there than I do at home."