Seven out of 10 people in Caithness are in favour of proposals to redesign health and social care services, a three-month survey has concluded.
The £30million blueprint involves the set-up of proposed care centres in Thurso and Wick and investment in Caithness General Hospital.
Members of NHS Highland’s Health and Social Care Committee endorsed the consultation process and unanimously agreed that the report’s recommendations now be considered by the full NHS Highland board which meets on January 29.
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The findings of the detailed 118 page report following one the most extensive and comprehensive consultations ever carried out by NHS Highland.
Michelle Johnstone, NHS Highland’s area manager North said: “I am really pleased that the committee fully endorsed the recommendations and recognised the huge amount of work put in by both the project team and the public in Caithness and I would like to express my gratitude to everyone involved.”
Councillor Nicola Sinclair, a member of the HSCC, said: “The fact that further work will go into choosing the site for Wick and deciding the future of the medical centre shows NHS Highland is now actively listening to public feedback.
“There’s a long way to go – bed numbers, staffing and transition arrangements will be crucial – but we’re one step closer to a multimillion pound investment in keeping our services local.
“My thanks go to the team who worked so hard on the consultation and the stakeholders and public for engaging in good faith. I hope we have turned a corner. Challenges remain – mostly in travel to Raigmore and maternity – but I now feel were in a better position to tackle them.”
Ron Gunn, vice chairman of Chat (Caithness Health Action Team), said: “I do think they have been listening to the public. In general we are happy with the proposals. We were heavily involved with the consultation and attended a lot of meetings.
“If we get what we are promised it will attract staff and hopefully provide a better experience for patients.
“We have a couple of concerns which we will bring up with NHS Highland. Mainly over the location of the Wick hub, whether it will be at Town and County Hospital or Pulteney House, and now a third site is being considered.”
If the board endorse the recommendations then it will then seek Cabinet Secretary approval prior to moving to complete an initial agreement – the next step in the process to secure investment.