Statement from Andrew Walker, Benbecula Community Councillor:
I am pleased to report that the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Well-Being, Shona Robison MSP, has now responded to my letter of 2nd February, with the following unequivocal statement:
“Should any proposals be considered to constitute major service change, they must be subject to full, formal public consultation and, ultimately, ministerial approval.”
The letter received late yesterday (5th March 2015) goes on to say:
“When Health Boards are reviewing and considering changes to the services they provide to local people, the Cabinet Secretary expects boards to communicate and engage with all local stakeholders, and the process NHS Boards should follow is set out in national guidance ‘Informing, Engaging and Consulting People in Developing Health and Community Services’.”
This decision is in keeping with the strong views communicated also in recent press releases from Benbecula Community Council on 5th February and the Association of Community Councils on 13th February. The trade union, UNISON, also issued a press release in support of both staff employed at the hospital, and patients.
Concerted action by all concerned stakeholders at a local level has now resulted in decisive action and intervention by the Cabinet Secretary. I expect that common sense shall now prevail in terms of process and procedure when a decision of this magnitude is in the offing – cutting bed numbers by 44% and proposals to move three dental practices into the hospital. This constitutes “major service change”.
The letter also contains a mild rebuke aimed at our NHS Western Isles board, which I hope the chairman, Neil Galbraith, and Chief Executive, Gordon Jamieson, will respect, both now and as we move forward in meaningful consultation:
“I am sorry to learn you have concerns around the Board’s engagement process with local people in relation to reducing the number of beds at Uist and Barra Hospital, please be assured your comments have been noted.”
I expect an immediate announcement now from the NHS Western Isles board, informing all stakeholders that there is an immediate moratorium on the decision to cut bed numbers at Ospadal Uibhist agus Bharraigh by 44% and that a process of consultation will commence. This should include the Comhairle, where councillors carry major concerns now about the eight beds designated as ‘continuing care beds’.