Gazette Letters 5.11.15

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Retain post

I write to you to express my dismay and shock at the possibility of the removal of the Alcohol Support Worker post in the Western Isles.

We do live in times of austerity and severe budget control, all of which is understood, however, it would be dreadfully unfortunate if posts of this nature were terminated.

In common with all areas, nationally, alcohol abuse and subsequent problems created by it, have long been recognised.

It was distressing to see that according to one set of statistics, the Western Isles had the highest percentage incidence of death from alcohol misuse. Deeply disturbing.

It is puzzling then to conceive of the alcohol support post being terminated, when, clearly for many people it provides a lifeline, direction and possible release from their addiction.

In simple economic terms, it makes no sense, for the imposition on local services, housing, NHS, social stability, crime etc. will be exacerbated when the problem is not addressed.

It is not a question of statistics or numbers. I’m sure there are many individuals and families who rely on this support for some kind of help and stability. I urge the Council to retain this post.

Willie Fulton

Isle of Harris

Make a difference

Each year Make a Difference Day encourages people to do something meaningful for a good cause, so I’d like to tell your readers all about the many and varied benefits of volunteering.

I work for a great charity called Revitalise; we provide much-needed respite holidays for disabled people and carers. Volunteers are absolutely essential to us, and it is safe to say that we simply couldn’t do what we do without them.

As a charity, Revitalise benefits hugely from the contribution of volunteers, but we have found that our volunteers benefit in a great many ways too.

Did your readers know, for instance, that 95% of our volunteers said the experience had improved their understanding and attitude towards disabled people and 77% said it had inspired them to play a more active role in the community?

And when it comes to the world of work, volunteering can really give you a boost in the race for jobs. 95% of our young volunteers thought volunteering improves one’s job prospects and, to prove the point, over half of our young volunteers now in work said volunteering had helped them get their jobs!

So if any of your readers want to make a positive difference to the lives of others – and improve themselves at the same time – then volunteering is one of the best ways of doing it!

For more info about volunteering for Revitalise, visit or call 0303 303 0145.

Colin Brook

Communion seasons

Permit me a response to Rev. Iain’s recent piece on his communion seasons, and the worth he sees in them (Viewpoint 22.10.15).

I find myself surprised that his spiritual walk seems so adversely affected by the world, for he writes that everything around him conspires with everything within him to insinuate doubt and uncertainty.

He goes on to say that voices scream daily that there is no God, and that there is not much substance to faith either.

These words make strange reading, weak of knee and defeatist.

Had he boldy declared that in all things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us, he might have won more approval.

Rev. Iain sees a remedy for this in his communion seasons, and principally in the Supper itself.

He says those who participate in the Supper feed on Jesus and so are strengthened for lives of service and consistent witness.

That makes strange reading too, for however this thing is viewed (and churches hold all manner of cherished views on the subject, dividing from each other in the process), the bottom line is surely this: it’s Jesus alone who empowers his people by His own indwelling, constantly abiding even to the end, and His life in us and through us is the daily reality a million times more than any sacrament could ever be.

Keith Fernie

Inverness IV2-3RW

NHS 24 deficiencies

Catherine Morrison’s letter about her sister’s distressing experience with an out of hours call has prompted me to respond to Dr Latham’s letter published on October 8, which I feel does not acknowledge the extent of the problems which may be experienced when a member of the public phones to request help with a medical problem, particularly a serious one.

While his letter gave all the reasons why the present arrangements for North Harris had come about, it does not address the deficiencies of NHS 24 which were evident in the management of the patient from Stockinish. I appreciate that this is a separate issue, but from the patient’s perspective, either phoning NHS24 or dialling 999 is the first point of contact, and there are well documented instances of medical misfortune associated with this system, its call handlers and algorithms.

Unfortunately, the ill conceived GP contract of 2003 (and I am well aware of the reasons as to why it came about) gave health boards the responsibility for providing out of hours care, and I appreciate that The Western Isles Health Board has a very difficult task to provide a service in such a remote location within the framework of this contract.

However, it does seem that a revised GP contract could be implemented in the near future.

Meanwhile, it is little comfort to be informed by Dr Latham that the present arrangements are a lot safer than the recent past.

He may feel they are better than twenty years ago, but I suspect that older readers would have had more confidence in the service provided on the island fifty years ago, when the first point of contact was with their local General Practitioner or the surgery.

I realise that today’s GPs feel unable to provide such a service, but many doctors and managers fail to appreciate, or certainly won’t acknowledge the concerns and understandable anxieties over out of hours care which so many members of the public have, particularly those of us in the older age groups.

These are likewise shared by my septuagenarian friends, many of whom are doctors.

Like Catherine Morrison, I regard telephone diagnosis as a potentially dangerous option.

No doubt those who accept its practice will quote statistics to claim otherwise, and where a GP knows the history of a patient, then it may be reasonable response.

However, if a patient has for example abdominal pain, then I fail to see how one can exclude the possibility of a serious underlying condition without a visit, and there are many other symptoms which require the patient to be examined.

Certainly, when I carried out the night and weekend calls for my wife in General Practice, I almost invariably visited the patients, and never regretted this policy, if only on many occasions to reassure them.

Such reassurance is less easy to provide with the present out of hours arrangements, and the opportunity for clinical error greater.

For doctors, managers and board members to claim otherwise is disingenuous, and the public can be grateful to the contributions from Catherine Morrison and Agnes Munro.

As to the solution, a major element must be NHS funding, and as politicians and the public seem reluctant to accept an increase in some form of taxation, other options become more radical.

However at present, health care professionals must appreciate that the public are understandably concerned about access to and the quality of out of hours care.

Sadly today, it seems that often this cannot be provided by a patient’s local General Practitioner, even as one might have hoped, in a rural community.

John Sinclair FRCSE.


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