TWO new full-time jobs have been created in Wick to help hospital patients and people with mental health issues.
Caithness Citizens Advice Bureau and NHS Highland have launched the initiative after securing funding for the posts, which are expected to last up to 18 months.
Iain Gregory, deputy manager at Caithness CAB, said two welfare rights officers have been employed as a result of the funding from SSE. The energy giant made the money available through its Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd (Bowl) project.
One of the employees will be based in Caithness General Hospital and the other with the community mental health team in Wick.
They will provide advice on benefits and entitlements as well as CAB services to any patients who require assistance.
Mr Gregory said: “We identified a need for intervention at an early stage for hospital patients and people with mental health issues. You may not know what to do if you are in hospital for a long time, what you are entitled to and what happens if you are not able to go back to work.
“An adviser will also be available to help people with mental health issues.
“We are delighted to be able to deliver this transformational service to hospital patients and to those supported by the Caithness mental health team. This venture will make a huge difference to countless lives and people can be assured that an expert CAB staff member is always available to take care of their support needs.
“We are extremely grateful to SSE/Bowl and we look forward to developing and enhancing the service as time goes on.”
Mr Gregory stressed that the service is “entirely voluntary” and can be offered in hospital and after discharge. “If people can’t be bothered while they are in hospital we can make arrangements to see them at home,” he said.
The funding is due to last between 12 and 18 months.
He added: “If it is successful we would hope to continue it permanently.”
Teresa Green, NHS Highland’s integrated team lead for east Caithness, said: “We welcome this new service working directly within our inpatient and community health and social care services across Caithness. It enables us to provide a more holistic assessment to people in our care and act timeously with the aim of decreasing financial and other problems which often arise as a direct result.”