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Caithness News Bulletins November 2004

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An independent expert group is currently looking at the future of the NHS in Scotland and is holding a series of regional meetings with patients and medical professionals around the country. The group, chaired by Professor David Kerr will be taking views to help them draw up a national framework to guide future decisions on how the NHS is run.

The regional meetings have already taken place this month at Glasgow, Inverness, and Edinburgh, with meetings still to be held in Dundee on the 13th of December and in Aberdeen on the 15th. Some concern had been expressed that none of the venues were in rural areas.

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Maureen Macmillan commented, "The national framework which will emerge from these meetings is vitally important to all users of NHS services. I would strongly urge interested parties to attend the meetings and give their input. Only by hearing a wide range of views will the final blueprint be practical and meaningful.

I am aware of the concerns over the perceived lack of rural based meetings. It is, however, the case that from the outset Professor Kerr's team met with stakeholders in other smaller meetings, where the demand existed. When the issue of rural based meetings was raised with me I spoke to the Health Minister Andy Kerr who advised me that the independent expert group appreciate that not everyone can attend the city meetings. They are however, willing to hold smaller meetings outwith the main cities and will do so according to demand. Recently there have been several health service issues which have come to prominence in the Highlands, such as the GP out-of-hours services, hospital service provision in the West Highlands and Argyll, dental services and maternity services in Caithness.

The meetings being held by Professor Kerr and his team are the public's opportunity to influence the future direction of health services. I would recommend that health service users in our rural areas make their voice heard where health service issues exist and make representations for meetings in their own areas, and encourage others in the area to do likewise."

Mrs Macmillan added, "Anyone wishing to attend the city-based meetings or to lobby for smaller rural venues should write to: Freepost Plus, RLRS-EHHE-JTXC, Room GE16, St. Andrew's House, Regent Road, Edinburgh EH1 DIG, or e-mail: nhsfuturedebate@scotland.gsi.gov.uk .