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July 2002

Malcolm Chisholm, Scottish Health Minister Visits Caithness General

Scottish Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm visited Caithness General Hospital on Tuesday 16 July 2002.  He took the opportunity to present certificates to staff who had successfully completed the Nursing Assistant Training Programme.   Mr Chisholm commended the health trust for arranging the training programme flagged up in a recent review.  He said that Highland were ahead of the game in getting training programmes in place.  Mr Chisholm had been pleased to recently announce a further 1.75 for continued professional development of staff in the health service in Scotland.  He also emphasised that he wanted people to flag up problems.  Mr Chisholm thanked the staff of the hospital and health service in Caithness for the work that they did.

Mr Harry Nicholl, Nursing Development Co-ordinator said that the 27 nursing assistant who had received certificates today were part of a rolling programme of training in the Highlands to ensure a uniform standard of training was in place in all places.  By late 2003 about 450 nursing auxilliaries would have completed courses as part of the strategy for nursing and midwifery.  the course undertaken by the nursing assistants had been created by Glasgow Caledonian University with a core programme for all nursing assistants to follow.  After completion of the training it would be possible for individuals to volunteer for further enhanced training in advanced skills and to higher standards.  At a later stage house keepers and porters would be involved in training programmes to ensure that all staff working in the hospital were part of a team and not left out in their own compartments.  The idea is to increase the proficiency of nursing assistant to be able to deal with aspects of nursing under the supervision of a fully trained nurse making for a more flexible team working situation in hospitals.

Amongst his meetings Mr Chisholm met with representatives of general practitioners and received letters outlining their concerns.  Mr Chisholm said he would be responding to these in due course.

The minister visited the A & E Department and its new extension and later was shown the rooms where the new renal unit would be located.  He inspected the plans for the new unit.  


Asked about the future for the Highland Health Council and others Mr Chisholm said that this was still being looked at but it was likely that a Scottish Health Council would replace the existing local health councils councils.

When asked to outline any problems he saw in the health service at present Mr Chisholm mentioned - GP recruitment and retention, Out of hours services particularly in rural areas.  His department was in the final stages of putting together a new GP contract.  Caroline Thomson, chair of Highland Health Board said that the onset of NHS 24 and the new contracts should help to alleviate problems that had been faced in recruitment of GP's.  However, she thought things might not be as black as some people made out as GP's were being recruited as shown recently in Dunbeath.

When asked about the drive to centres of excellence and the possible erosion of local hospitals Mr Chisholm said there was still a roll for local hospitals in several areas such as Cancer Care and in Managed Clinical Networks.

On the closure of the A & E at the Dunbar Hospital Mr Chisholm referred to the fact that there was still local negotiation going on about the matter.   Neither he nor Caroline Thomson for the Health board could say exactly what would happen but there were several ideas being discussed.  Mr Chisholm said that there were other options although he was not suggesting that they would necessarily be used in Thurso.  He made reference to the highly successful Minor Accident Unit at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh which was run by nurses.  This was only one possible scenario that could be given consideration.  Sheena Craig, Directorate General Manager at Caithness General Hospital said that training for nurses in that situation would take time if that was the chosen outcome.  No firm dates were give for the reopening of the A & E at the Dunbar hospital

A meeting was also to take place with the Caithness General Patients Council.

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