Caithness health campaigners deny call to film NHS staff

Written by Tom Freeman on 11 May 2018 in News

Gail Ross and John Finnie condemn call for filming of NHS staff in Caithness by campaigners

Caithness Duncansby Stacks - credit Theo K

A campaign group which fights cuts to health services in Caithness has denied calling for patients to film their experiences with the NHS.

Caithness Health Action Team (CHAT) was criticised by local constituency MSP Gail Ross and Highland list MSP John Finnie for allegedly asking patients to film their medical experiences via their Facebook page.

Finnie said: “Asking patients to film their experiences is an absurd proposal with potentially significant legal, ethical and moral implications for our valued NHS staff.”

But speaking to Holyrood, CHAT chairman Bill Fernie, a former independent councillor, denied there had been any such call.

“I don’t know about any filming,” he said. “We have never discussed that at any CHAT committee meetings, and none of our people who have been looking for this suggestion can find where it is. Social media is a minefield, so common sense suggests someone down the line may have suggested filming, but not CHAT.”

Ross told Holyrood the Facebook post has since been deleted.

CHAT was formed two years ago to protest the downgrading of maternity services at Caithness General Hospital, which left pregnant women facing a 100-mile journey to Inverness if their labour had complications that requires a specialist.

They have also campaigned against the centralisation of other services such as orthodontists which means children are taken off school for days just to get braces refitted.

But Ross accused the group of creating “an atmosphere of fear” for staff, which had led to the MSPs speaking on their behalf.

“CHAT need to really think about the direction they are going,” she said.

“They were set up with very good intentions but have turned into a group that a lot of people feel intimidated questioning. They are stifling information from people that are offering a different, clinically-based perspective.

“We have to stop this continuous attack on the NHS and the negativity it’s creating.”

Caithness GP Dr Alison Brooks said the campaigners had “unrealistic ideals”.

“I would love to see an end to the constant friction and intransigent stance adopted by some, and to find a mutually acceptable, realistic way forward, as I believe we all want to ensure a safe, quality service for the people of Caithness”.

NHS Highland has faced financial difficulties and has asked the Scottish Government for a crisis loan of up to £15m.

Fernie said the health board was fighting a “rearguard action” against CHAT and other health campaigners. 

“They’re not taking on board the massive support CHAT has here. We had nearly 3,000 people marching in Wick and Thurso,” he said.

“They’re missing the point trying to battle against us when in my view the health board should be seeing CHAT as an ally in taking on the Scottish Government to get more funding, if that’s what they really need.”


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