Barra community complain of a "breakdown of trust" with NHS Western Isles

​There is a “major breakdown in trust” about NHS Western Isles policies towards Barra, following the withdrawal of a succession of island-based services.
Locals have complained of a continued reduction in health services on the island.Locals have complained of a continued reduction in health services on the island.
Locals have complained of a continued reduction in health services on the island.

​This message has come from the Locality Planning Group for Barra and Vatersay, which advises on integration of NHs and care services.

In a draft letter seen by the Gazette, the Group’s chair, Margaret Ann Beggs, says: “We need to look at the number of lost or diminished NHS services either based in Barra or delivered in Barra over recent years and look for answers from those responsible for the ongoing decline of our locally based or locally delivered Health and Social Care services.

“ There appears to be a policy that where possible or where vacancies occur, no effort is made to replace Barra-based service provision but instead there is an ongoing pattern to have Barra services covered from Benbecula or even Stornoway”.

Ms Beggs continues in the letter: “Physiotherapy, midwifery, health visitor, Community Psychiatric Nurse, social worker have all been moved.

"Take that into account along with the fact that the General Practitioners and the Barra Hospital are now covered by locums, and we now hear that dental services in Barra are suspended for Health and Safety reasons.

“We also hear that Speech Therapy is no longer coming over to Barra (we used to have a speech therapy assistant based on Barra), and now we ‘hear’ that the Audiology Service will not be delivered in Barra.

“If the premises and equipment are no longer fit for purpose for consultants to hold clinics in Barra then the sooner we hear that the new Home and Hospital for Barra is going to be built the better!

“We have only been waiting since 2007 for the Barra Hospital premises to be replaced and the Care Home has failed Care Inspectorate Standards for a number of years while we wait and wait for the new Home and Hospital to be given the go ahead”.

Ms Beggs states: “There is a major breakdown of trust in Barra about the policies of the Health Board with regard to continuous erosion of the delivery of services in Barra which, in other areas of the Western Isles, are seen as local services”.

In a brief statement two weeks ago, the Western Isles NHS Board said that “as a result of health and safety issues that require assessment, routine dental care will be temporarily unavailable in Barra Dental Clinic. The position will be reassessed at the beginning of February”.

Since then, they have said that “a staged reopening of the dental surgery is now taking place which currently focuses on emergency cover”.

However, no date has been given for reinstating a full dentist service on the island.

The Locality Planning Group for Barra and Vatersay is one of five set up throughout the islands to advise the Integrated Joint Board on bringing together NHS and social care services.

However, their immediate concern is to retain services that already exist.

The removal of island-based services has been the source of longstanding protests from Barra.

In parallel with this, a long-running dispute over GP services culminated at the end of August in the sole remaining GP, Dr Mark Willcox, resigning from the island’s medical practice.

Since then, it. has been run directly by the Health Board from Stornoway using locum doctors.