Pa­tients travel ‘100 times round Earth’

10,000 hos­pi­tal ap­point­ments for peo­ple trav­el­ling over 100 miles

The Press and Journal (Inverness) - - FRONT PAGE - BY JAMIE MACKEN­ZIE

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.

Pho­to­graph by Sandy McCook

LONG DIS­TANCE: Out­pa­tients are mak­ing round trips of around 240 miles to Raig­more Hos­pi­tal in In­ver­ness.

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