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YOUR VIEWS: 5-year plan and 4 new care homes could solve woes

By Andrew Dixon

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Cradlehall Care Home.
Cradlehall Care Home.

Massive investment in care homes needed

I believe that our care sector is the biggest single concern in the Highlands today. This will be exacerbated by the massive increases in older people needing care due to demographic changes.

I have been around 16 care homes in the Highlands in the last few months and spoken to many people in care.

I dropped in to the 50-bed Cradlehall Care Home last week knowing that it is closing on April 17, following a period of ‘significant issues regarding quality of care’. Hopefully, beds at other care homes will be found for all the residents. Cradlehall is owned by St Philips Care Home Group, who will now sell it having acquired it from HC-One last year. HC closed Invergordon’s Castle Gardens recently too. Private sector owners are moving out of the care home business.

In the rural Highlands, the situation is bad. It is felt that Lochaber has half the care beds that it needs, people from Ardnamurchan are being sent to the Fort Augustus care home. The Mackintosh in Mallaig and Dal Mhor in Strontian are currently closed, but still being heated/maintained by NHS Highland. Apparently Skye is down from 77 to 35 care beds, with residents being sent to Thurso, Aultbea and Inverness. You can imagine how difficult it is for residents’ families to visit them.

New Care Inspectorate (Scotland) regulatory requirements are certain to further reduce the number of private care homes in the Highlands. The Highlands has had a net eight care homes close in the recent past.

We should review the contracts for care providers, care at home etc in our communities also. Carers get paid less than they do in a restaurant. At the moment carer contracts use an urban mileage calculator. For instance, at a number of care providers the carers only are paid for the time they are at a patient’s home and not the time commuting in-between. Every 10 miles can take 20 minutes, with hours spent travelling per day.

A lack of care beds means that delayed discharges are blocking up the hospitals, with knock-on impact of delaying knee, hip and other operations where there are lengthy waiting lists. It makes no financial sense either, according to Alex Neil, a former SNP health minister, a week in an acute hospital bed costs £4500, whereas a care home costs a quarter of that.

I believe we need a five-year plan, with Scottish Government funding. In my opinion this should be 60-bed NHS-run care homes, with staff accommodation, to be built in Fort William, Portree, Fort Augustus and Ullapool. I’m sure that Caithness and Sutherland will have similar needs.

Angus MacDonald, OBE

Highland Councillor (Fort William and Ardnamurchan)

Liberal Democrat Westminster candidate

Public transport is not a viable alternative

I guess nobody relies on the trains these days but this is worth knowing should you be planning a trip north or south. ScotRail are frequently cancelling services so check with them first before you plan your journey.

All it takes is a conductor to phone in sick and the whole service is cancelled! ScotRail apparently don’t have any cover for incidences of sickness.

Last week they cancelled the last train of the day south from Wick so anyone hoping to catch the train back south from any of the stations in the north would have been stranded. ScotRail sometimes organise a replacement bus but, despite it being 2024, aren’t able to tell you how long you will have to wait as they don’t track this bus after it leaves Wick.

You may have to wait half an hour or the bus may not turn up at all (this has happened to me several times in the past). You would think they could ask the bus driver to phone in every couple of stops but ScotRail are either completely apathetic towards the few people still relying on trains or it’s beyond their wit!

On Monday, ScotRail cancelled the mid afternoon train, so anyone hoping to get the train south from Lairg or Tain or anywhere else between Inverness and Wick will be stranded. I phoned ScotRail and they told me that a conductor was off and that they weren’t providing a replacement bus.

It’s worth considering the above and also the unreliability of Stagecoach buses, too, when you hear politicians claiming that they want people to use their cars less and consider public transport as an alternative option. Of course there are votes in pretending to care about the environment and climate change but please don’t be fooled.

Alan Roberts

Kinnairdie Avenue


Ban on wood burning stoves in new-build properties

Highland MSP Kate Forbes has written to the Scottish Government urging them to clarify what could be seen as a ban on woodburning stoves in new-build properties.

“They've lost the plot again. No nuclear, no coal, no gas, no oil, now no wood. This is to keep Greens on side. Scottish Government, or SNP as they are better known, need to go and hopefully never come back.” - Shaun Simpson

“Totally impractical, people taking storm-blown timber off the roads has kept the roads open for decades. Not everyone has access to gas or electricity. In severe weather a wood burner can heat the home and cook the dinner.” - Bob Mackay

“I would advise anyone under 40 to emigrate, this country will be ruined for those coming up behind us.” - Jim Fraser

“Firewood could cost nothing, if we have to heat our home with electricity and gas that's money in their pocket - that's what this is about.” - DTD Mobile Mechanic

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