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Nairn community councils pile pressure on NHS Highland to restore immunisations to Nairn Healthcare Centre, rather than Nairn Community & Arts Centre, after initial furore over plan to divert spring vaccines to Inverness Eastgate Shopping Centre

By Donald Wilson

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Alastair Noble at the entrance to Nairn Town & County Hospital.Picture Gary Anthony.
Alastair Noble at the entrance to Nairn Town & County Hospital.Picture Gary Anthony.

Pressure is mounting on NHS Highland to reverse a decision to use the Nairn Community & Arts Centre for any future Covid immunisation and to use the Nairn Healthcare Centre (NHC) instead.

In an 11th hour change of heart, the board moved spring Covid booster jabs from Inverness’s Eastgate Shopping Centre to the community centre.

The switch caused much confusion for patients.

While welcoming the service being returned to Nairn, the town’s community councils are campaigning for the immunisation to be restored to NHC which dealt with 800 patients a day during the pandemic.

Responsibility for administering immunisations has been removed from GP practices in an agreement between the Scottish Government and the British Medical Association.

But many health professionals argue that while this may work well in large centres of population it doesn’t fit well with scattered rural communities.

MSP Fergus Ewing has pledged his support and told the community councils he has approached the health secretary Humza Yousaf who he states has approached NHS Highland as well. Mr Ewing said the idea Nairn patients should go to the Eastgate Centre was “absurd”.

“I strongly believe that these services should be provided locally,” said Mr Ewing. “Whilst the GP contract, which I criticised at the time for being an urban-centric document, does provide for these services to be provided by the boards not GPs, there is in fact an option that each board can choose to make other arrangements.”

Mr Ewing added: “There is a process for this to happen, and I have written to NHS Highland asking that be done. I have also asked the health secretary to intervene.”

Retired GP and interim-chairman at Nairn West and Suburban Community Council, Alastair Noble, welcomed the MSPs’ intervention. He said: “I firmly believe the ‘Nairn model’ is the right way forward for integrated health and social care in all our communities.

“We must prioritise the individual and their own community’s capacity as the current best clinical practice and also as the best value for money. We need good big hospitals but they cannot and will not ever be the right place for the vast majority of our patients. We cannot let them dominate the teaching of our future staff and eat up more than their fair share of scarce funding.”

Dr Noble said he had received a response from NHS Highland CEO Pam Dudek to local concerns.

“She said she ‘understands’ local concerns. But her letter offered no indication that she was prepared to take account of them.

“This centralised, one-size-fits-all policy is ill-judged and inappropriate for a number of reasons.

“It is especially unsuited to the rural and dispersed populations and communities of the Highlands. A flexible approach, reflecting local circumstances and resources, is required.”

NHS Highland said it did not have anything to add to its earlier comments.

RELATED: Fury as more folk told ‘get jags in Inverness’ as NHS Highland withdraws vaccination services from Nairn

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