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.