17 May 2012

NHS Drop-In Event - A Comment

Along with many others, we went along to the Drop-In Event organised by NHS Highland and the Scottish Ambulance Service, and were able to talk to Dr Ian Bashford, who took up his post as Medical Director at NHS Highland in 2007. The main point we wished to make was that we held NHS Highland entirely responsible for the loss of our two doctors. The publicly stated reason for their departure was the failure of NHSH to support them in providing out-of-hours cover, but we believe, with good evidence, that a major reason for their departure was the loss of the old-style District Nurse provision in this remote corner of their practice area. Not only did this front-line service prevent their having to come down the peninsula unless a case was very serious, but it gave them great support in what is otherwise a lonely and, at times, dangerous job.

Dr Bashford was very defensive. He blamed the introduction of the new GPs' contract in 2004, which allows them to opt out of out-of-hours work, cuts from the Holyrood government, changing expectations amongst GPs.... We feel sure he is right, but that doesn't escape from the fact that, having appeared to settle well into our community, both GPs decided to go as soon as the new 'arrangements' for West Ardnamurchan were put in place. However, he promised to de-brief the doctors to find out what their concerns were. It is interesting to note that discussions with the doctors were led, on the NHSH side, by Gill McVicar - she is extensively quoted in yesterday's Oban Times. It seems that everything that lady touches goes bad.

A point we made was that, throughout the consultation exercise about our District Nurses, this community felt that it was simply not being listened to by NHSH officials. Worse, promises were made which were blatantly broken, such as those by the new Nurse who was to have lived in the community. When we pointed out that her job description could have been written in such a way as to ensure she lived here, he stated that this was legally impossible - yet he seemed to admit that a requirement to attend the Kilchoan Surgery at 9.00am each morning would probably have done the trick.

A depressing aspect of the discussion was his apparent unwillingness to accept that no real dialogue had taken place between NHS agencies and the community. He also seemed to assume that this community would be unwilling to experiment, for example with the use of new technology - something which was never mentioned - and was then surprised when we told him that access through such technologies here was both widespread and good. As we well know, what we now have was imposed on us.

Dr Bashford was of the opinion that we had been 'spoilt' by the service our District Nurses provided. When we pointed out how badly things had deteriorated out here, as a direct result of NHSH's actions, he said, "the NHS has changed for the worse." Never was a truer word said.

It was, in many ways, a depressing discussion, but we do feel that Dr Bashford listened - he certainly took notes. But one question he posed sticks in our minds. He asked, "So, what do you want?" - which shows just how well NHSH has been listening over the last eighteen months.


  1. Jon at least the good Doctor listened to you. I spoke to Tracy Ligature who's main defensive tactic was to not let me get a word in. All I heard was an endless series of platitudes. She as NHS Manager for this area was in total denial that the NHS were in any way at fault. Our Doctors had been given every help to stay, but they did not want to so that was that.She assured me that we would not have an endless series of Locum's during the change over and the Locum's would be encouraged to stay for a while.Further discusion on this topic made me think she was talking of a week rather than a day or two which is not useful.

  2. Gosh,that is just the reverse of what she told me. They were going to try to get 6 or 7 GP's to do turn about here. I asked about continuity she assured me it would be fine, haha. I doubt a Dr dealing with 6 surgeries would remember his patients names, let alone their medical history. What a joke!