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John Swinney: Skye death and life-threatening incident ‘should never have happened’

John Swinney said it was "not good enough" that Portree Hospital couldn't provide 24/7 care | Alamy

John Swinney: Skye death and life-threatening incident ‘should never have happened’

The death of one woman and a life-threatening incident of another on Skye "should never have happened", the first minister has said.

Helen Aird passed away at the weekend while attending the Skye Live festival in Portree.

Eilidh Beaton suffered an anaphylactic shock, and was kept alive after a lifeboat crew were able to keep her airways open.

The lack of emergency medical care on the island has been criticised in both cases, with Portree Hospital closed at the time.

John Swinney said at FMQs it was "not good enough" that the island did not have access to 24/7 care at Portree Hospital and pledged to put it back on a sustainable footing.

But he said efforts to do so have been stymied by workforce challenges.

Tory leader Douglas Ross said the Ritchie review of emergency care six years ago recommended that Portree Hospital should be open 24 hours a day.

"Why in the last six years have the recommendations from this independent report not been implemented?" he asked.

He added there were "black spots across Scotland" where urgent care is not always available, which is "costing lives and putting people at risk".

He urged the government to ensure all communities have access to the emergency care they require.

Swinney said that in three of the last six years since the Ritchie review, Portree Hospital had been able to run a full service but that could not be sustained due to staffing issues.

But he added: "I accept that it not good enough."

The FM pledged to improve emergency care and confirmed that health secretary Neil Gray had already been in discussion with NHS Highland.

Earlier this week, deputy first minister and local MSP Kate Forbes said she was "hugely concerned" by the situation.

She added: "Enough is enough. It has been six years, and the timescales for delivering the recommendations keeps shifting.

"North Skye in particular needs to know there is resilience and confidence in their local health service."

Labour leader Anas Sarwar also raised issues with the NHS at FMQs, following reports that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde was having to review spending in all services.

Sarwar said this was a "damning indictment" and urged Swinney to apologise for decisions his government had made that had resulted in finances for all health boards being stretched. 

Swinney said Scotland's NHS was the "best financially supported" public service in Scotland, but he accepted difficult decisions had to be made due to "14 years of austerity" from the UK Government.

He added that the Scottish Government's choice to increase tax on higher earners generated an additional £1.5bn for public services in Scotland and accused Sarwar's party of having "deserted" its commitment to taxing the most well-off.

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