Highlands & Islands

Bed push raises concerns about far north health services

Caithness Hospital Image copyright Google
Image caption Sunday's protest finished with a march to Caithness General in Wick

Hundreds of people turned out for a protest on Sunday to raise concerns about the state of health services for Caithness and Sutherland.

Volunteers pushed a bed, representing a hospital trolley bed, about 20 miles (32km) from Dunbar Hospital in Thurso to Wick's Caithness General.

About 600 people gathered in Wick to greet the bed's arrival.

NHS Highland said it was aware of local concerns but added that millions of pounds were being spent on services.

The bed was pushed by teams in a relay, with each group taking turns to push it for a mile. The protest was organised by Caithness Health Action Team.

'Ongoing concerns'

Public concerns about the level of health care available in the far north - Caithness and Sutherland - are long standing.

Last year, a review of NHS Highland's performance heard public fears that care in the area was "on the brink of meltdown".

Bill Fernie, a Highland councillor for Wick, said the support for Sunday's bed push was "very impressive".

He told BBC Radio Scotland: "Five hundred to 600 people turned out to greet the final team and then march to the hospital.

"It was all about the Caithness people's concerns about what is happening with health services in the far north."

NHS Highland said it was aware of the bed push which it said reflected "ongoing concerns, some of which we understand, but in general we don't recognise the cuts in services they are referring to".

'Key appointments'

In a statement the health board said: "The budget is significantly overspent for Caithness and this is because we have been maintaining services where it is safe to do so.

"Caithness General Hospital is getting a multi-million pound upgrade. We now have consultant surgeons and physicians regularly rotating and working in Caithness General.

"We have also been able to make a number of key local appointments including three rural practitioners and two advanced nurse practitioners. These are all significant investments."

The health board said interim measures on the grounds of safety were in place for maternity services.

The statement added: "These will remain in place until we know the outcome of our local reviews. We hope to be in position to report on the findings later this year, and our priority will be around safety.

"Perhaps the bed march can be a positive catalyst for us all to redouble our efforts to work together to deliver as much safe care as locally as possible."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites