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Health boards across the north are being told by MSPs to prove they are working for fed-up patients in remote areas, after years of frustration from campaigners.
The demand at a powerful Holyrood committee comes after campaigners in Caithness called for health services in the Highlands to be completely overhauled.
They complained that too many people in the region have no choice but to travel over 100 miles to Inverness to access care.
Rural health boards were also warned they need to make sure they are regularly putting themselves forward for government scrutiny.
The exchanges were made on the same day Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf came under fire at Holyrood for a lack of action on upgrading maternity services in Moray.
Four separate petitions from members of the public were heard by members of the health committee demanding improvements to rural care on Tuesday morning.
One of these came from Rebecca Wymer, from John O’Groats, who wants to see the government carry out an emergency in-depth review of women’s health services in Caithness and Sutherland.
Ms Wymer previously told The Press and Journal she worries serious conditions are being missed because women are having to travel to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness for treatment.
She even said she is putting off having children because of the lack of specialist care where she lives.
Speaking after Tuesday’s parliamentary meeting, Ms Wymer told us: “This is a really good, positive start after a long year with a lot going on behind the scenes.
“I think everyone agrees things are not as good as they should be, and this is the most positive outcome we have had for a long time.
“It is good to think we are now getting somewhere.”
The second of the four petitions called for an agency to advocate the healthcare needs of rural Scotland, and a third called for a solution to staff recruitment issues.
Dr Sandesh Gulhane, a Conservative MSP who also works as a GP, said he is worried rural health boards are not opening themselves up to government scrutiny.
“I feel there are health boards that don’t come in front of us and, I don’t want to use the word, but hide,” he said during the committee hearing.
“We need to ensure health boards are coming in front of us to have these discussions directly.”
Meanwhile in Westminster, Jamie Stone, the Lib Dem MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, raised local anger about access to care.
In 2019, a mother from Caithness expecting twins was sent to Inverness.
She gave birth to her first twin in Golspie then had to travel 52 miles to Inverness to give birth to the second twin.
Mr Stone said: “Just in the last few days, we have had the terrible tale of a couple having to leave from the far north in their own car after the mother’s waters had broken. A three-hour journey it was.
“And more recently, the Public Services Ombudsman has ruled that the child has suffered brain damage.”
No mother, no father, no child, no unborn baby should suffer increased risk simply because of where they live.
– Jamie Stone MP
He added: “In my own personal book, I don’t think an apology is good enough – no mother, no father, no child, no unborn baby should suffer increased risk simply because of where they live in our United Kingdom.”
The fourth petition at Holyrood called for Caithness County Council to be reinstated and for Caithness to break away from NHS Highland.
However, that proposal was closed down by MSPs.
William Sinclair from Thurso had submitted the petition saying things had only gone downhill since Caithness was subsumed by Highland Council and NHS Highland.
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