Save Portree Hospital trio voice closure fears to MSPs

SAVE Portree Hospital campaigners have made their case to MSPs in the Scottish Parliament.

And a key Holyrood committee has reacted by asking the health secretary to review the highly controversial NHS Highland decision.

Alan MacRae from Uig, Drynoch’s Malcom Hendry and Catriona MacDonald of Portree appeared before the public petitions committee on Tuesday (15.12). The group had submitted a petition with more than 4,000 signatures demanding an independent review of NHS Highland’s move.

The campaign group had previously claimed that a “mistake” was made by NHS Highland when it decided in December last year to push forward with plans for a new hospital in Broadford, which will see Portree Hospital lose its beds. The decision is particularly worrying for Staffin and people living in the north end, given the distance to Broadford in the case of emergencies and there is also huge concern about the logistics for families facing a two-hour round trip to visit loved ones when they are patients. The group has been at pains to state that its protest is not about north versus south Skye but a solution for the whole island, as well as Lochalsh and south west Ross.

NHS Highland has come in for major criticism from alarmed north Skye communities who are upset at the consultation process and concerned it was geared towards the final decision.

Alan MacRae, whose father, Dr Calum Og, was a long-serving Trotternish GP, told the MSPs that NHS Highland had insisted the decision meant an “upgrade” in Portree’s hospital services but he said that was inaccurate. “It may be many things but closing a hospital is not an upgrade,” said Mr MacRae, who added that clinical opinion on the decision was also split in Skye.

Portree Surgery GPs had described the move as a downgrade earlier this year.

Under threat: Portree Hospital.

Portree Hospital.

Mr Hendry said that the region’s health board had provided a “lot of waffle” during the consultation period but little evidence to support the decision and warned it could have a major impact on north Skye residents living far away from Broadford.

The committee, which includes Highland list MSP Mary Scanlon, agreed that it would ask the health secretary Shona Robison MSP to review the process leading to the decison.

However, NHS Highland has dug its heels in and insisted the “service redesign” for Skye, Lochalsh and south west Ross was “robust and fair” and said that view had already been supported by the Scottish Health Council.