Congratulations to Dick Barbor-Might for his brilliant exposure of the ‘questionable questionnaire’ which has been inflicted on residents of Rannoch and Tummel by the Centre for Rural Health as part of a concerted effort to replace round-the-clock doctors in rural areas with ‘First Responders’.
Your readers will know that for over three years now, the local community in Rannoch and Tummel has been campaigning hard to restore their local GP out-of-hours cover which was inexplicably and inexcusably lost in 2008. All that Tayside Health Board has offered us is a scheme for First Responders who are well-meaning and sincere first-aiders, trained up to a point in resuscitation techniques, but by definition incapable of being doctors. Naturally the local community – the Community Council, the SOS Rannoch campaigners and concerned local residents – have maintained constant and near-unanimous opposition to the Health Board’s proposals in public meeting after public meeting and in deputation after deputation, right down to the chamber of the Scottish Parliament itself. What we in Rannoch want from this is a restoration of local doctors doing our-of-hours cover in rotation, to give us the continuity of care which we enjoyed from our doctors here in the past.
So anyone aware of this background would have been surprised, not to say amazed, by the inappropriateness and vacuity of the questionnaire which your contributor, Dick Barbor-Might, so eloquently criticises, and with such admirable forensic precision. It is surely a sad reflection on the state of academia that such a clumsy, amateurish, disingenuous and confused questionnaire should be issued under the imprimatur of the University of Aberdeen, and then be described as an “evaluation” exercise which will be used to decide our fate in Rannoch on matters of life and death!
Furthermore, how can Dr David Heaney, one of the principal architects and prime movers of the cunning plan to replace doctors with First Responders in rural areas, be credibly asked to give an objective assessment of the proposed scheme for Rannoch? Your readers should be told that, after the flawed panel decision back in 2005 to allow GPs in Rannoch to stop out-of-hours cover, I personally contacted Dr Heaney at the Centre for Rural Health to ask for his professional help on the situation in Rannoch, as four of us were intending to mount a legal challenge. But when he realised that we wished to challenge the doctors’ opt-put, Dr Heaney (whom I then knew as ‘Dave’) became evasive and plainly reluctant to be involved, telling me that I would need to seek the permission of the then Scottish Executive before he could assist us further in the matter.
I can categorically state that this is the only time, in over thirty years professional experience, that I have been told that government consent is necessary to obtain a report from a supposedly independent academic body.
The above bizarre incident, coupled with the revelations about the ‘questionable questionnaire’ should alert us to wonder about, and at least to question, the alleged objectivity of any ‘evaluation’ carried out by the parties concerned here. Can we be blamed for coming to the conclusion that Tayside Health Board is using Dr Heaney and the Centre for Rural Health to pressurise local residents into accepting First Responders instead of doctors, and this is simply not acceptable? What sort of “objectivity” is this?
All people in rural areas have some right to medical health care and, where there are local doctors, to continuity of care from these doctors. This is called the ‘equity principle’ which is a founding principle of the NHS and of the Highlands and Islands Medical Service (HIMS) which preceded it.
Nobody who lives in the remote and rural areas of Scotland can afford to lose this right, nor should they. That is why everyone who supports this principle should sign up to the ‘e-petition’ in my name, now lodged with the Scottish Parliament, which calls for restoration of traditional doctoring where this has been lost in remote and rural areas of Scotland, like Rannoch, and protection of what remains of this elsewhere.
The closing date for e-petition signature is 7 September. It can be found at: http://epetitions.scottish.parliament.uk/view_petition.asp?PetitionID=333
And, of course, in Rannoch we will continue to fight to get our doctors back for round-the-clock cover.

Randolph Murray
Wester Camghouran, Rannoch

 

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