Concerns raised about palliative care in Caithness

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Campaigners fear an NHS Highland review of hospital provision in Caithness could affect palliative care services in the area.

Caithness Health Action Team (CHAT) has concerns that Wick Town and County Hospital could close and inpatient beds could go at Dunbar Hospital in Thurso.

NHS Highland said the review was because of an acute staffing problem in all hospitals in Caithness.

It said whatever the future model of care, it would be provided locally.

Ron Gunn, of CHAT, told BBC Radio Scotland: "We really want to send a signal to leave us alone.

"Leave the beds we have in Caithness because we need to attract people to come to the area and if they are hearing hospitals are being downgraded it's not good for the community."

Mr Gunn said Caithness has the second largest population in the Highland region so it needed adequate hospital provision.

Wick Town and County Hospital has a nine-bed ward for patients with cognitive and memory problems.

It also has a 10-bedded wing, two palliative care suites and eight beds for frail older people and young disabled people.

Twelve-bed Dunbar Hospital's services include palliative care.

'Delayed discharge'

NHS Highland said it was aware of concerns about palliative and end-of-life care.

A spokesman said: "Whatever the future models of care, our commitment will be to provide it locally. Currently less than one in five people requiring end-of-life care receive it in a hospital setting.

"In the meantime, we are experiencing a staffing problem and, for this reason, bed numbers have been reduced both in Town and County and Dunbar and the hospitals are closed to admissions apart from palliative care.

"Patients who are in Town and County at the moment and are in a delayed discharge situation, every effort is being made to help them to move to a more appropriate setting as soon as possible."

He added: "If the staffing problems in Caithness General and Town and County do not improve then in the short term we will need to look at what options we have to ensure we can provide safe services.

"The situation is being closely monitored."

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Shona Robison has said that NHS Highland needs to improve communication with communities in another part of the Highlands.

There are concerns in the north of Skye about a redesign of the island's hospital provision, and also staffing problems at Portree Hospital.

Ms Robison said a special liaison group will be set up to make sure islanders are properly informed about changes to Skye's hospital services.

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