Patients travel ‘100 times round Earth’
10,000 hospital appointments for people travelling over 100 miles
TEN thousand outpatient visits were made to the north’s flagship hospital in the past year by people living more than 100 miles away.
It equates to a distance of nearly 100 times the Earth’s circumference.
The local health authority admitted the number is “not satisfactory” but said they plan to use more video conferencing and telephone consultations.
One Thurso resident said travelling 200 miles every week for a year “hugely impacted” his working life.
Caithness Health and Action Team (Chat) co-vice chairman professor Iain Baikie, said: “Forcing people from Caithness to travel nearly 100 times around the Earth each year for basic health needs is not justifiable.”
Ten thousand outpatient visits were made to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness last year by people living more than 100 miles away in Caithness.
The figure equates to a total distance travelled of nearly 100 circumferences of the Earth, and about 27 visits a day. An NHS High- land spokesman admitted the number is “not satisfactory”, stressing they will start “focused work” in Caithness using more video conferencing and telephone consultations – but ruled out employing more consultants or nurses.
He stressed many people are travelling for specialist outpatient appoint- ments which have never been based in Caithness, such as orthopaedics, urology or neurology.
But the figure, based on recent analysis by NHS Highland, has further outraged campaigners.
They fear Wick’s Town and County Hospital – which provides palliative care and inpatient beds – could closed by Christmas, as part of a review of inpatient beds also including Caithness General Hospital in Wick, and Dunbar Hospital in Thurso.
The local health authority insists no decisions will be made until after a public consultation in November.
Last night, Caithness Health and Action Team (Chat) co-vice chairman professor Iain Baikie, said: “Forcing people from Caithness to travel nearly 100 times around the Earth each year for their basic health needs is not justifiable on any sensible terms.”
He also claimed this means a loss in working hours of “tens of thousands” and suggested a “sensible solution” would be to have consultants regularly attend Caithness General on a four to six-week rota.
Thurso resident Peter Todd spent a year travelling every Tuesday to Raigmore for outpatient consultations after he broke his leg in three places.
The 35-year-old offshore worker said: “It had a huge impact on my work with taking days off and it affected me financially. And in the depths of winter I was regularly late because of the weather, and I don’t drive so had to rely on public transport.”
He said he could not understand why scans could not be done at Caithness General, then sent to Raigmore for analysis, adding: “NHS Highland don’t recognise people are having to travel 200 miles plus for a round trip and that it impacts on people’s lives.”
Wick St Fergus Church minister, John Nugent, said he recently spoke to a woman in “extreme physical distress” due to breathing difficulties who is travelling to Raigmore on an ongoing basis for outpatient appointments.
He added: “To get down there, her daughter has to take her. There are many other vulnerable people who are having to make that kind of journey. It’s not just highlighting the need for more consultants but also nursing staff.”
Thurso-based Chat member Ron Gunn said he knew of people travelling south to receive “routine injections”.
Local MSP Gail Ross said: “I am fully aware of the amount of out-patients travelling to Raigmore, often for minor, short appointments. Along with the other Caithness councillors we have impressed upon NHS Highland that they must make more appointments available locally and at Caithness General. As the elected representative I am working alongside my council colleagues and NHS Highland to try to find solutions.”
“It had a huge impact on my work with taking days off”
I“10,000 outpatient visits were made to Raigmore Hospital in the past year”
t is a fine balance to strike – the ability to access care versus the capacity to deliver that care. It is a juggling act the NHS has been held accountable for time and time again.
In the Highland and Islands this issue is only magnified as the health service looks to serve a wider expanse.
However, geography shouldn’t dictate a level of care.
Unfortunately, it seems for some that this is the case as they battle a postcode lottery of how and when they can access health services.
New analysis from NHS Highland has revealed 10,000 outpatient visits were made to raigmore Hospital in the past year by people living more than 100 miles away. Taking into account the homeward journey, that equates to about 100 circumferences of Earth.
But more importantly that also equates to extended time off work, extra logistics planning and added financial pressure, contributing to a less than satisfactory experience.
NHS Highland has admitted as much and vowed to start “focussed work” on tackling the problem.
The focused work must result in deliverable improvements.
Because the 10,000 figure accounts for those who can overcome the hurdles to access health care.
What it doesn’t tally are those who unfortunately are not as able.
LONG DISTANCE: Outpatients are making round trips of around 240 miles to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.