Monday, 18 January 2010

Gibson questions Minster on Dingwall Unit

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has gained an assurance that the fate of the rheumatology unit has not been sealed following the temporary cutting of beds.

Mr Gibson gained the assurance in a question to Health cabinet Secretary Nicola Sturgeon during themed questions last week.

Ms Sturgeon said that she was aware of the situation at the Dingwall unit and said that NHS Highland were carrying out a review into it and no decision had been taken as to the future.

Ms Sturgeon further confirmed that a decision to cut the number of beds from 14 to 10 was a temporary move till the end of the financial year and did not pre pre-empt the review which is at an early stage.

Mr Gibson said…

"I am reassured by the Minister's response. I was perturbed to hear about the cutting of beds earlier this week. However the fact remains that the review is ongoing and it no decision has been made on the unit.

"This unit is well used and loved by people across the Highlands and Islands and it would be short sighted and wrong to close it. It offers rest-bite and peace of mind to those that use it. The expertise that are available there is without parallel in Scotland."

"I fully back the campaign to keep the unit open. If it goes it will be a backward step for the Highlands and Islands I hope that those carrying out the review will listen to the campaign and see that it makes sense to keep it open."



Copy of Q & A (14/01/10)

1. Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what progress has been made in discussions with NHS Highland to ensure the provision of a seven-day rheumatology service in Dingwall providing specialist facilities to the whole national health service board area. (S3O-9079)

The Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing (Nicola Sturgeon): I apologise to members for my rapidly disappearing voice. You will be pleased to note, Presiding Officer, that that will lead to shorter answers than normal today.

A review of the rheumatology service across Highland, which includes the Highland rheumatology unit at Dingwall, is currently under way. The review is at an early stage and no decisions have been made. The issue was raised with me at the board's annual review on 7 December, and I have asked the board to keep me informed of progress.

Rob Gibson: Does the cabinet secretary agree that NHS Highland is indulging in sharp practice in using an efficiency savings drive in the mid-Highland community health partnership to remove four of the 14 beds at the Dingwall rheumatology unit while conducting a whole health board review of the service that may take longer than this financial year? Does she also agree that NHS Highland should clarify what efforts it is making to offer relief to as many patients as possible who want to use that well-loved unit, which has welcomed patients from all over the Highlands and the Western Isles?

Nicola Sturgeon: I can inform Rob Gibson that I have received information on the matter from NHS Highland and reassure him that the decision on beds to which I will return in a second—in no way pre-empts the wider review of the rheumatology service to which I referred.NHS Highland has made a temporary move, until the end of the financial year, to reduce the number of beds from 14 to 10. It has advised me that the beds in Dingwall were underoccupied, with the average occupancy rate being 70 per cent. Because the service operates mostly on the basis of planned admissions, it is possible—indeed, it is the best use of resources—for it to operate at near full capacity. I am also advised that the change allows the operation of a new day-case service for patients who need infusion therapy. Currently, those patients have to travel to Inverness.Members will appreciate that, in the current economic climate, the Government has taken steps to protect the NHS budget into the next financial year. Nevertheless, all NHS boards are required to ensure that they use funds efficiently, which means using funds to deliver the best quality of service to patients. I note the points that Rob Gibson has made and ask him to accept my reassurance that the decisions that have been made in the short term in no way pre-empt the longer-term review.

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