Campaigners have expressed their delight after an intervention from Health Secretary Jeane Freeman resulted in the continuation of lifeline services by a charity for the visually impaired.
Almost 3,000 blind or visually impaired adults and children across Moray and the Highlands and islands use Sight Action.
The future of the charity had been thrown into doubt after NHS Highland had signalled its intention to cut all funding to allow occupational therapists to undertake the work.
However, following a hard-fought campaign, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has intervened after the importance of the service was highlighted by service users and their families.
A joint statement issued yesterday from Sight Action and NHS Highland stated: “We have all agreed to work together to evaluate the current model, consult with service users and identify areas of the service that will meet any new developments in Scottish Government strategic planning and ultimately benefit service users”.
Local politicians yesterday praised the decision to ensure the long-standing charity is allowed to continue.
Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant, who campaigned outside NHS Highland’s headquarters in Inverness with service users last week, said she is “delighted” the health board has been forced to backtrack over its closure plans.
Mrs Grant said: “This has been a very frightening time for Sight Action staff and clients and I am so relieved that NHS Highland has taken pause to listen to the concerns.
“I’m still shaking my head as to how the health board might have considered an alternative model.
“I shudder to think what might have happened to the blind or partially blind people for whom Sight Action is their lifeline.”
Mrs Grant said she will keep a keen eye on negotiations in the coming weeks to ensure specialist staff are retained to provide services and called for “common sense to prevail”.
She described the outcome as “a real victory for people power”.
Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, echoed her colleague’s sentiments.
She said: “Over the past couple of months I have had scores of constituents contacting me to say how important Sight Action’s lifeline services are.
“I’m pleased to hear that following constructive discussion between the charity, NHS Highland and Highland Council, a solution has been found, and that this greatly valued service provision will continue.
“It appears there may even be the opportunity for service users to help shape future improvements, and I look forward to hearing more about this from the Sight Action team in due course.”
A thank you event for campaigners will take place at Sight Action’s Beechwood base in Inverness next month.