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Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant says more health care courses in north would 'help meet the current staffing crisis in the area'

By Gordon Calder

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A north MSP has claimed there is "significant proof" more health care courses in the Highlands and Islands would "help meet the current staffing crisis in the area."

Rhoda Grant made the plea in a debate she secured in the Scottish Parliament on NHS recruitment and retention and spoke about "the long waiting times, the risk to life and the unacceptable pressures on staff". The Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands also highlighted the maternity issues and mental health crisis in Caithness, the cost of locums, GP’s handing back practices to the health board and the training of doctors where there is a focus on team working within specialities. Mrs Grant said "staff are burnt out, off sick or are choosing the leave the profession altogether."

The MSP said NHS Highland is trying to recruit from all over the world because of staffing issues across the region.

She said maternity services in the north "continue to be unsatisfactory because of lack of staff" and again called for risk assessments to be undertaken on the journeys from Caithness and Moray to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.

Rhoda Grant outside Caithness General hospital in Wick
Rhoda Grant outside Caithness General hospital in Wick

Mrs Grant stressed her call for more training courses in the north has been supported by The Royal College for Nursing and The Royal College of Midwifery while NHS Highland and the University of the Highlands and Islands have also highlighted the importance of training being available locally.

She said: "In the Highlands and Islands we have our own wonderful world-renowned university, a new university at the cutting edge of delivering education and research differently.

“People are reluctant to uproot their families to further their careers. Therefore, to grow our own workforce we need to provide that training close to home

“Evidence given by NHS Education for Scotland highlighted that midwives are more than likely to remain in the area where they were educated. I’m sure the same goes for other disciplines."

The Cabinet Secretary for Health, Humza Yousaf, in response, acknowledged the recruitment and retention issues in rural remote and island communities and said he would explore the risk assessments of journeys. Mr Yousaf also said he would meet health community groups in Caithness this summer.

Speaking after the debate Rhoda Grant MSP said: "I welcome the Cabinet Secretary’s commitment to explore the risk assessments and to meet with health campaign groups in Caithness this summer.

"The Scottish Government have stated that they want to see health services being as close to home as safely possible. They cannot follow through with that commitment unless they seriously look at training in rural, remote and island areas. That is why I want to see more healthcare courses being available at UHI so that this education can be delivered closer to home."

She added: "A revamp in this regard might go some way in attracting more professionals into our rural hospitals as well as providing them with decent housing, services and transport links.

"Ultimately, this is an urgent issue that has large hurdles to overcome. It’s imperative that this is addressed with an innovative approach so that our rural communities aren’t left behind."

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