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‘No longer have faith in the health service’: Skye residents raise concerns over lack of urgent care services in Portree

Urgent Care Centre in Portree
Portree Hospital where the Urgent Care Centre is located. Picture by Sandy McCook.

Residents in Portree have raised concerns over the lack of facilities in northern Skye following the closure of the Urgent Care Centre.

It was announced on May 31 that operations out of the Portree unit would stop because of “ongoing staffing pressures”.

The facility, operated by NHS Highland, has faced months of reduced operations due to staff shortages that have finally led to its closure.

The health board has directed patients to seek treatment at the newly-opened Broadford Hospital.

However, Portree residents now have to travel 25 miles for a medical appointment.

Since the closure of the Urgent Care Centre, people have raised concerns, including the community action group, Save Portree Hospital.

‘People have moved away because of this’

Chairman Neil Campbell spoke to BBC’s Good Morning Scotland about the difficult situation for Skye residents.

He said: “It’s having a huge impact. In some ways, it’s like second-day clearances, and I know people who have moved away from Skye, especially older people because they no longer have faith in the health service up here.

“Lack of access to a hospital is one of the main problems we have because they have closed urgent care in the north of Skye for at least 18 months.”

Mr Campbell explained that before the pandemic, Portree operated a walk-in service, welcomed by the community but closed when Covid struck.

Residents believed that once Covid began to recede, the walk-in service would restart, but that did not happen.

Portree residents now face travelling 25 miles to the new Broadford Hospital due to the closure of the Urgent Care Centre. Picture by Sandy McCook.

At a meeting with residents, there were rumblings that NHS Highland may close the centre, described as “consolidating the system”.

When asked if the new Broadford Hospital could fill the void, Mr Campbell said: “It is a fantastic new asset to the area, but the whole north-end of Skye, which used to have two hospitals now has nothing.

“Staff in Glendale on the west side, they have to travel 30 miles to get to Portree, and they’ve got another nearly 25 miles to travel down to Broadford.

“The timescales are enormous over terrible roads, so we need a service in north Skye.”

Skye councillor Calum Munro said the community is “really anxious”, and there are feeling of hurt and betrayal over the closure.

Staffing is the biggest issue in Portree, although Mr Campbell says that residents have made efforts to encourage staff to come offering accommodation.

‘Ongoing unprecedented staffing pressures’

He says that there is “anger and disappointment” in the community with the situation.

Noting that people no longer feel safe in the community, he urged NHS Highland to reopen the walk-in centre.

He said people would understand if they weren’t seen straight away but
that just being in that sort of environment would be a comfort to many residents.

A NHS Highland spokesman said: “We regret having to suspend service delivery at the Urgent Care Centre in Portree due to ongoing unprecedented staffing pressures.

“We will operate a see-and-treat model of care from the new Broadford Hospital while service improvements are made in north Skye.

“This model will ensure patients will be triaged and seen in the most appropriate place by the most appropriate clinician.”

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