A huge demonstration of public unrest took place in Caithness yesterday over the downgrading of hospital services in the region.
A hospital bed was pushed for 21 miles from Dunbar Hospital in Thurso to Caithness General in Wick.
The protest was organised by Caithness Health Action Team (Chat) as more patients, particularly expectant mothers, are having to travel more than 100 miles to Inverness for care.
Nicola Sinclair, secretary of Chat, said: “It went brilliantly. It couldn’t have gone better. We had a massive turnout. We think there were about 500 members of the public turned out. It was huge.
“All 21 teams turned up at the correct times for their miles. We had a couple of wheels fall off the bed at one point, but fortunately it was when the rugby club were doing their mile, so they just picked it up and ran with it. We then had a wheel change at Formula 1 speed.
“The staff and patients at Caithness General were at their windows clapping and waving.
“We hope that the massive turnout we had shows NHS Highland how much the community values Caithness General and the Dunbar and all the services we have here and how important they are to the community.
“NHS Highland had promised us there would be a full public consultation before any changes would be made. But we have already lost three beds and no consultation has taken place.
“They put a newsletter through the letter boxes last week. They are talking a lot but we feel they are not listening.
“These are valid concerns that we have. It is not a small group of parents expressing these worries, it is the whole community that feels it.”
The threshold for sending mothers to Raigmore was lowered last year after a girl died of an e.coli infection 40 hours after being born at Caithness General.
The number of maternity beds at Caithness has been cut from six to three.
A spokesman for NHS Highland said: “We need to work together to understand and explain any changes so that local people can be reassured about their local services.
“Perhaps the bed march can be a positive catalyst for us all to redouble our efforts to work together to deliver as much safe care as locally as possible.”