I’ve recently spent a few days down at Raigmore Hospital while my son was in for an operation. During a 5 day stay I was in awe of the dedication and care from the staff no matter how busy they were. Everybody had time for a blether with the patients and visitors and the calm and patient demeanour of the staff was very evident. With no set visiting hours, you were generally welcome anytime and this helped greatly with the flow of people in the wards and made for an easier visiting experience.
Raigmore is the main hospital for the whole of the Highlands and parts of Moray and is also a large teaching hospital. It has always made me smile wryly when I would hear people from the central belt complaining that their A&E department was under threat of closure when you knew that there were another couple within 15 minutes or so when in the Highlands you could be hours from the only one that can deal with major traumas; the staff at the satellite and cottage hospitals in the region are phenomenal at what they do without the facilities of the larger hospitals.
Because of the size and location of the geographical area that Raigmore has to cover, it – and many of the satellite hospitals – suffers from a shortage of staff coupled with long waiting lists for certain departments, way in excess of what the national waiting time should be. In 2015, Nicola Sturgeon announced that new National Treatment Centres would be built, as centres of excellence for training and treatment and one of these would be located in Inverness. Seven years on and that centre has been built and is in the process of recruiting staff for its imminent opening.
Specialising in orthopaedics and ophthalmology, this is going to significantly cut the two largest surgery waiting times in the region and help thousands of patients who have been waiting many years for surgeries that will improve their lives. Situated nearby to Raigmore on the Inverness campus of the University of the Highlands and Islands and the Life Sciences Innovation Centre, a major research facility, it is another welcome addition to the Highlands when all too often we feel removed from investment.
The other centres that have been built are located in the central belt with more to be built around the country and will link up to combine the different health board region offerings for the whole of Scotland. There will always be pressures from staffing, budget constraints and building issues but going forward we have health provision in Scotland that we can be sure is as supported as can be. Things are not perfect and never will be but when you contrast what we have with what is on offer from Westminster, we are in a better place even with the problems that we face.
My son has been extremely lucky with his care; a surgeon normally based in Manchester, pioneering surgery, and exemplary care whilst in hospital which to all intents and purposes has been free. This surgery has the potential to alter his life and I dread to think what the cost would have been if we didn’t have the SNHS. It’s not just the surgery; it is the bed, the food, the drinks, the care, the dressings, the medication, the ongoing physiotherapy and follow up appointments. We are continually being drip fed stories of how the Tories are trying to privatise the NHS whether by the back door or straight up pay per procedure and this cannot be allowed to happen. There are obviously more pressures on the NHS as research evolves and new treatments are offered but we must not end up in the situation where these expensive new treatments are only available to those who can pay rather than those who cannot, who are often the very people in need of them. The pressures faced by NHS workers outwith Scotland are worrying and with everything that they went through during Covid, proper pay and working conditions could be one way of Westminster saying thank you to them by prioritising them over other decisions that are made which simply are not matters of life and death. After what I witnessed last week, they simply do not get enough credit for what they do in every single role and I cannot thank them enough.