The diary is presented in reverse chronological order, but the first entry can be found here.
2005 is history
I was amazed at the colours at sunset these past days. And at sunrise as well. Normally, I expect light to start to fail 25 minutes after sunset, but at this latitude this is extended to 40 minutes. I am not a native of the islands, but one of the reasons I have come here is the natural beauty. Whether it is in the images shown above, at a time of good weather - or in bad weather, as I showed in a much earlier posting about the November 11th hurricane.
Being caught up in a thunder, hail, snow, sleet (and kitchensink) shower back in January, whilst going down the Lochs Road at Leurbost, with the bus driver being forced to reduce speed to a crawl. No snow or ice at the next village, Keose.
The many rainbows in the spring.
The joy at seeing the first green shoots, in April.
Hearing the first bleating of lambs in a pasture at Breascleit late in March. Walking the island in the bitter winds of February, and seeing the sad remains of the sheep that did not make it through the winter. Or the sheep that was knocked down at the Marybank cattlegrid in April, and was slowly decomposing in peace in the ditch that it was dumped in over a period of 6 months.
Seeing the days lengthen to an incredible extent, sunset at 22.30, with the light lingering to the nadir of the night at 01.30, then returning fully at 03.30. But also shortening of the days, with the present daylight hours of 09.15 to 15.35.
The howling of the gales, 4 in one week in November. Clattering of hail and thumping of the wind against the window at night - waking up in the middle of the night because there is no noise.
Watching the breathtaking coastal scenery at Filiscleitir, or the stunning mountain scenery from Rapaire, Teileasbhal, Mullach an Langa. Or beautiful Glen Langadale, where I'm forever fording that river under frown of Stulabhal. The little mouse on the slopes of that mountain, the one that allowed me to stroke it. The yellow grasses on the moors of South Lochs, finding your way in amongst a myriad of lochs, streams and bogs. Loch nan Eilean, south of Garyvard.
Place seems to have gotten under my skin.
Breakfast and presents at 11 o'clock, accompanied by a mixture of Spanish champagne and orange juice. I receive a jumper, socks and a diary. By 1.30 pm, we head out to Arnish to walk to the lighthouse. Today is overcast but perfectly windless, temperature about 7C. The boats shimmer in their own reflections. Over at Arnish, we walk along a rough track, which skirts the perimeter fence of the Fabrication Yard. There are huge pipes lying about, segments for windturbines. Should the Lewis Windfarm ever be built, then the turbines are to be built here. At the moment, they are building towers for a windfarm off the Caithness coast. When the Arnish Yard was built in 1975, an existing cottage was torched, and the hill it stood on bulldozed out of existence. You can still see where the hill used to be. There was also once a huge slipway, used to launch an oil platform, but that was landscaped out. Some Lewis ponies roam the area, they are small and quite friendly. On arrival at the lighthouse, you need to manoeuver around the keeper's cottage, through a mire of horse dung and mud. A small memorial stands on the hillside, a little distance to the south. It was erected in memory of a fisherman who drowned there on December 19th, last year. It would appear that after leaving port, the crew of his boat were all down below, with the vessel going on autopilot. This went wrong, and the boat went on the rocks. Two crewmen escaped, the skipper drowned. The memorial had a bunch of flowers sitting next to it, left from the first anniversary commemoration. After returning from Arnish, we call in to mrs B's sister's house in the town for a flying visit. Visibility quite reasonable today, saw a hazy outline of Skye and the mainland. Eilean Mhuire, the easternmost of the Shiants, could just be discerned off Kebock Head. Dinner is magnificent, with turkey breast, cranberry sauce, potatoes, vegetables and wine. Lit up by candles, it fills us up very well. The sweet is an icecream pavlova. At 9.30, we head down the road to one of mrs B's other sons for a Christmas ceilidh. We end up watching familie films from the 1960s, which show quite a few people who are no longer alive, and it all gets a little emotional.
Nice sunny morning with the odd shower passing in the distance. Isles FM has Joe the Fish on until 10 o'clock, after which they go on to automatic. Have all sorts of problems with internet which I won't bore you with. Nip into Somerfields to get the remainder of the week's papers. We take a drive out to Gress at 2.30 to look round that village. The district is overlooked by Beinn Barabhais, which I climbed in August. As the sun sinks over the village of Back, the sun sets the houses off against the white sky. After a drive through Gress, we cross the bridge and explore Back Lighthill, where all sorts of trails lead off into the moorland. We return to Stornoway after sunset at 4pm. Mrs B makes our supper tonight. The driver was her 2nd son.
I am starting with this lovely image of the Skye Bridge, because its area features in the grounding of MV Blackfriars at Kyle of Lochalsh, a mile east of the bridge. More of that in a second. Today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. Sunrise at 9.15, sunset at 15.35. It's a nice sunny day, but colder than the 10C it was yesterday. At 9 a.m., SYY reports 6C. Rain- and hailshowers come clattering by at regular intervals, but they don't deter the birds from bathing in the resulting puddles. Starlings, finches, sparrows and thrushes all continue to spatter in the middle of all the hailstones. Mrs B goes out at 10.45 for a nativitiy play in the High Church. It is reported that the oil tanker MV Blackfriars ran aground at Kyle of Lochalsh at 9.20 pm last night. She was running in ballast, heading for Pembroke, South Wales. Conditions were said to be windy, southwesterly wind force 6 to 7.. This morning, the tanker manages to refloat under her own power at high tide, at 10 a.m.. She is presently tied up at Kyle for an inspection. The vessel, which measures 1,570 tons, is not thought to have spilt any of her 13 tons of fuel oil. Blackfriars hit rocks before, in 1999, in Wales. The map below shows the area around Kyle where the tanker went aground. I hope the seals on Eileanan Dubha didn't get too bad a fright. Last time I was there, in October 2004, the place was heaving with seals.
Map reproduced with kind permission of the Ordnance Survey of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, copyright 2005.
Found an image of the stranded tanker. And there is this ludicrous story of the cats' home in Dundee that was invaded by mice. Have a laugh on the BBC site, which includes a videoclip. The mice of course never went into the cats' cages. Went into town at 2pm, and bought an interesting book from 1960 about William Lever, later Lord Leverhulme, the owner of Lewis and Harris between 1918 and 1925. Also cashed in the Coop dividend voucher, all of £2. Last night, guests had been expected to arrive, but they went to the wrong B&B. They were up from Benbecula to visit relatives, but the list of B&Bs they had received from the hospital gave the wrong address with Mrs B's phonenumber. So they turned up at another B&B, which of course wasn't expecting them. To add insult to injury, although the other place did take them in, they were searched twice by police, because a mobile phone had been reported missing at that establishment, from the very room that family were in. When I walked back from town, I noticed a long line of vehicles waiting to board the ferry. This was at 2.45, and I thought they'd either missed the ferry or the boat was late. It was late, as it came round Holm Point just as I walked up Newton Street. One of the lorries contained a reindeer troup from Rossshire, who had taken part in a Xmas party at the Newton and Sandwick Community Centre last night. Showers continue on and off all afternoon. Have a nice and lazy evening.
Hear a different slant on a piece of island history. Lord Leverhulme abandoned his plans for industries in Lewis in the 1920s because of opposition from local crofters. They were against BECAUSE the traders in Stornoway were opposed. Leverhulme represented a multinational company, which they perceived as a threat against their vested interests. The merchants told the crofters, who were dependant on them, that Leverhulme was going to oust them from their land. A very cunning approach, because only 35 years before there had been bitter struggles in the island and beyond (more specifically the Battle of the Braes, in Skye in 1885; the mass trespass in Eishken in 1887 and the uprising at Aignish in 1888) to gain more rights for crofting tenants. I have recorded this also in an entry on my Arnish Lighthouse blog. Mrs B goes out for dinner which is a roaring success as far as company is concerned and a roaring disaster foodwise. I had my usual microwaveable dish. The weather deteriorates through the evening, with the wind getting up to gale force and the rain lashing down. A lady on the VisitHebrides bulletin board says she'll be in Lewis for a week in January. Plenty to do for adults, but what is there for kids aged 2 and 4. Precious little, but I advise her that Eoropie beach is very nice, and it has a play area nearby. Indoors, there is the pool and play area at the Sports Centre.
FOREIGN MERCHANT SHIPS UNDER DETENTION IN UK PORTS
SHIPS DETAINED IN NOVEMBER 2005
Date & Place of detention: 03/11/2005, Falmouth
Vessel Name: GALINA (General Cargo) 257 GT
IMO No: 7630385
Company: A. M. Yagur
Classification Society: INCLAMAR
Summary: Still under detention at the end of November. 7 recorded deficiencies (4 detainable). Detained for auxiliary engines and associated systems being in variously unsafe, defective and unreliable; other machinery and electrical devices and systems being similarly unreliable or unsafe; health, hygene and sanitary conditions a risk to crew; loose floor plates and other accident hazards on board.
Date & Place of detention: 10/11/05, Newport
Vessel Name: AGIOS NECTARIOS (Bulk Carrier) 14331 GT
IMO No: 8109929
Company: Pitousa Shipping
Classification Society: Germanischer Lloyd - GL
Summary: Detained for 5 days in total. 32 recorded deficiencies (6 detainable). Detained for substandard port & starboard lifeboat launching appliances, deficient lifejackets, substandard fire drill and three major ISM non-conformities.
Date & Place of detention: 14/11/05, Newport
Vessel Name: NEW WAVE (Bulk Carrier) 23207 GT
IMO No: 8307222
Company: Transmar Shipping Co.
Classification Society: American Bueau of Shipping - ABS
Summary: Detained for 4 days in total. 10 recorded deficiencies (1 detainable). Detained for ISM non-compliance (fire drill and abandon ship drill).
Date & Place of detention: 17/11/05, Grimsby
Vessel Name: VIDYAEVO (General Cargo) 671 GT
IMO No: 7427128
Classification Society: Russian Maritime Register of Shipping - RMRS
Summary: Detained for 2 days in total. 1 recorded deficiency (detainable). Detained for inoperative satellite EPIRB
Date & Place of detention: 22/11/05, Newport
Vessel Name: MV JUMBO (Other Cargo) 1998 GT
IMO No: 8518297
Company: Wilson Ship Management
Classification Society: Lloyds Register - LR
Summary: Detained for 4 days in total. 23 recorded deficiencies (7 detainable). Detained for emergency preparedness, resource & personnel, master & responsible authority and safety & environmental policy not being in accordance with the Safety Management System, fire drill showing lack of control, as well as the VHF and MF/HF radio installations not being as required.
Date & Place of detention: 30/11/2005 – Portsmouth
Vessel Name: BUZZARD BAY (Refrigerated Cargo) 10381 GT
IMO No: 9016662
Flag: Netherlands Antilles
Company: Seatrade Groningen BV
Classification Society: American Bueau of Shipping - ABS
Summary: Released on 01/12/2005. 25 recorded deficiencies, 1 detainable. Detained for ISM related deficiencies (maintenance of the ship and equipment).
DETENTIONS CARRIED OVER FROM PREVIOUS MONTHS
Date & Place of detention: 31/10/2005 - Ipswich
Vessel Name: GRENLAND (General Cargo) 1900 GT
IMO No: 7015286
Company: SA Shipping Ltd. Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation
Classification Society: Polski Rejestr Statkow
Summary: Released on 03/11/05. 10 Recorded deficiencies (2 detainable). Reserve source of energy for GMDSS radio equipment deficient. Some charts not corrected and up to date.
Date & Place of detention: 08/08/2003 – Tyne
Vessel Name: GLORIA (General Cargo) 657 GT
IMO No: 6523107
Company: Timant Ltd, Tallinn, Estonia
Classification Society: None
Summary: Still under detention at the end of October. 57 deficiencies recorded prior to inspection being suspended. Vessel unsafe due to condition of ship’s hull structure, deck transverse beams holed with corrosion, numerous side frames distorted due to operational damage, vessel fails to meet the stability requirements for a vessel loading bulk grain, evidence of insect infestation in cargo hold.
Date & Place of detention: 26/10/05, Aberdeen
Vessel Name: ROSITA (General Cargo) 2316 GT
IMO No: 7605873
Flag: Antigua & Barbuda
Company: Lubeca Marine GMBH
Classification Society: Germanischer Lloyd - GL
Summary: Detained for 9 days in total, released on 03/11/05. 9 recorded deficiencies (4 detainable). Detained for poorly maintained cargo lashing equipment (not as required in securing manual), no record of testing of lashing or lifting equipment, document of compliance for dangerous goods not available, fire doors tied open.
Date & Place of detention: 05/09/2000 – Lowestoft
Vessel Name: OLIVER FELIX (Tug) 144 GT
IMO No: 5281128
Company: General Maritime Ltd, London
Classification Society: International Naval Surveys Bureau - INSB
Summary: Allowed to sail to Southampton for scrapping and re-detained on arrival, (27/02/03). 50 recorded deficiencies. Magnetic Compass deviation card missing, daylight signals missing, excess oil in engine room constituting a fire hazard, ship’s certificates expired. Ship still under detention but now sold on and undergoing refurbishment.
Note (2008): The webcam is no longer operational
Spanish John in Battleship Drama
A local cargo vessel, the 18 metre landing craft Spanish John II was caught up in a frightening incident with a large battleship in the Minch recently. "I got the fright of my life" said the Spanish John skipper Greig Milligan. "I had no warning of a naval exercise taking place but when the shells were fired, just for a second or two the thought went through my head I hope they aren't firing at me. It was a bit scary".
Friday 28th October had started off quietly enough and although not the best of days weatherwise Greig decided to head for Canna. On board the Spanish John was 40 tonnes of rat poison for the New Zealand team of rodent experts who are ridding the island of rat infestation.
Although hearing some extra activity on the ships VHF Radio Greig left Mallaig Harbour and set course for Canna. Two hours out from Mallaig the silence in the wheelhouse of the Spanish John was broken by an American voice coming over the VHF and that's when Greig noticed the huge battleship in the distance. "Vessel approaching battleship, crossing my starboard side, please pull away now - you are entering my safety zone" was the message which was repeated and repeated with the R.O.'s voice getting more and more high pitched. Greig wasn't too bothered at this point as he was on the port side of the navy ship, none the less he altered course slightly just in case.
The Radio messages kept coming and as Greig could not see any other vessel in the vicinity he began to wonder if it was the Spanish John that the warship was trying to warn off. "Power vessel with black hull and white superstructure approaching on starboard side, please pull away now". This was repeated a further six times with increasing urgency.
Greig was beginning to get very concerned and tried unsuccessfully to contact the warship. The Spanish John has a dark blue hull and the drums of poison on board could explain the white superstructure. Again Greig altered course although still remaining on the port side of the warship.
"Vessel on starboard side, vessel on starboard side you are entering my safety zone - I'll have to defend myself". The Radio Operators tone became more and more agitated, Greig got more and more concerned. Then it came "I'll have to defend myself - I'm opening fire" "I'll have to defend myself - I'm opening fire". Then they came. "Four shells were fired. Two white, two red " said Greig. I did get a fright and being caught up in the increasing tension of the incident heightened the emotions. My brain was in overdrive I just wondered what the hell was going on".
That was the end of the incident, no more histrionics on the VHF by the battleship Radio Operator, no more contact with any other vessel and as the rats on Canna will have found out to their cost the Spanish John safely delivered its load to Canna!
Chance had it that an update on the story of the American warship firing on an innocent cargoboat was broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland early today. An official inquiry is to be held, as the American frigate involved was NOT authorised to use live rounds. It would appear that the skipper of Spanish John II reported the incident to the Coastguard, which launched the inquiry. It's an international incident, which could have some repercussions. I'll keep updating.
Extending up to the left from Sirius you come across Procyon, the Little Dog Star and Castor and Pollux, the Gemini or Twin Stars.
To the right of Orion rears Taurus, the Bull, with Aldebaran as its bloodshot eye. This image is currently augmented by the presence of another bright red object, the planet Mars. A fuzzy cluster of stars between Orion and Taurus resolves with a pair of binoculars into a group of 7, which is known as the Pleiades.
The legend around Orion dictates that he will never be in the sky at the same time as his slayer, Scorpio. When he rises, Scorpio sets; and vice-versa.
Take a coat, but above all: enjoy.
Brilliantly sunny morning, hardly a cloud in the sky. Not cold either. Better than elsewhere in the UK, where strong winds rule. Found that the cargoship Celtic Spirit, that I mentioned yesterday, has been detained before. On 25th November 2003, she was stopped at Le Lègue Saint Brieuc (Brittany, France) for 3 deficiencies in machinery and safety in general. She measures 2,978 tonnes and is registered in the Bahamas. The boat is operated by the Willie Group, a Cardiff-based shipping company which specialises in transportation of timber, initially as pit-props (coalmines). On the company's website, Celtic Spirit is quoted as being delayed due to bad weather. Aye, that would fit. She was due in at Warren Point, Northern Ireland, on December 1st. After dark, at 5pm, I went into town to photograph the Christmas illuminations. Otherwise not a lot doing tonight. Mrs B's logs are very wet, but she's experienced in lighting fires (in her fireplace) so that poses few problems.
Quiet morning with the well-boat coming off the Goat Island slipway. Muirneag came in in good time. It's the SFPA boat which is coming to visit. A man goes out into the basin at low tide to pick winkles. Head into town for a big wad of papers, which bring more tales of scandal for the local health service. Two things are taking place at the same time: the Xmas lights will be switched on at 7.30, and a meeting is convened by WIHB to explain their future policies. I get a lift to the Caberfeidh Hotel. Am redirected to the Mermaid Lounge, round the side, which is packed out. WIHB Chief Executive, Mr Dick Manson, gives a presentation for the future direction that the NHS in these islands will take. It boils down to the same workload to be done by fewer people, less qualified and away from the hospital. It sounded so nice and well thought through, until the jarring interludes came, provided courtesy of local councillors, representatives from the nursing staff and the Western Isles MP. The nurses alleged that the Health Board ran a rule of fear, Stalinism, corrupt and devoid of any decency. The MP queried the lack of morale and the excessive costs of locums. The councillors demanded to know why vacancies were left unfilled for a long time. I have to report that the Chief Executive, although well aware of the malcontent in his ranks, never spoke up on the subject. He did not even acknowledge that there was a problem, and left it to his lieutenants to answer all the nasty questions. My pen ran out after 70 minutes, but I managed to engrave notes into my notebook, oh dear. Left at 8pm to go to An Lanntair to see the film Rocket Post. This is a very pleasant filming of the failed efforts by German rocket scientist Gerhard Zucher to establish a viable postal link between Scarp and Harris by rocket. The rocket he used exploded
scattering all the mail over the beach. The story was well written, filmed with the fantastic backdrop of the North Harris mountains, well known to yours truly. Great!
Western Isles NHS Reform
Presentation by Western Isles NHS Board
Location: Caberfeidh Hotel, Stornoway
Date: 1 December 2005, 18:00 hours
Chair: Mr Dick Manson, Chief Executive WIHB
Notes taken by myself in a private capacity
Presentation is fronted by:
Dick Manson, Chief Executive
Dr John Smith, medical director
Prof Andrew Sim, professor of Rural and Remote Medicine UHI
Cathy Carnell, general manager hospital services
director of nursing
(apologies: could not take down everybody's details)
Dick Manson started by giving a 30 minutes' presentation (promised as 15 mins), outlining first of all the challenges facing the NHS in the Western Isles
- ageing population
- an increase in chronic disease
- an increase in emergency admissions, a quarter of which are aged 65 or over
- EU working time directive
- shortage of clinical staff (generally in Scotland)
- advances in medical science, difficult to keep up with
- expectations from the public
The NHS is there to meet health needs.
The Western Isles has a unique demographic profile.
Total population: 26,500
The life expectancy for men is the 3rd worst in Scotland, 72 years of age.
The life expectancy for women is the 3rd best in Scotland, 80 years of age.
Avoidable illness is too prevalent
Population in the Western Isles consists of a high percentage of elderly people, higher than anywhere else. 1 out of 5 people is aged 65 or over
The number of young people is decreasing, although their rate of academic achievement is better than elsewhere in Scotland
Birth rates are falling; expecting to go down from 220 last year to 150 in 2010
Crimerate is lower than average
Incomes are 14% lower than average for Scotland
House prices are lower
Unemployment rates are higher
The rates of alcohol-related admissions is much higher
There are higher numbers of people suffering from heart conditions and depression
The NHS is very well used.
Every day, the hospitals have 150 inpatients
20 attend A&E
18 patients are admitted or discharged
320 people see their GP
1380 prescriptions a day are dispensed
35 general practitioners
3 GP registrars [in training]
This represents an unrivalled clinical resource
There are 229 hospital beds (spread out over the 3 sites Stornoway, Benbecula and Barra), 30% of which are unused
This has been imposed by government, and should be from bottom up
More than 100 people have been involved, NHS staff as well as patients
It should provide a sustainable model for the next 10 years
There were a number of redesign groups
1 Primary Care Out-of-hours
There will be a move from GP's on-call to emergency care teams. These consist of nurses, paramedics and a GP
Four surgeons are to provide core-services for all types of surgery, including orthopaedics, general surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology
3 General medicine
Will be moving to a multidisciplinary approach (doctors, nurses, allied health professions [physiotherapists, pharmacy &c]. There will be 4 consultant physicians, which should be enough to provide a 24/7 service
4 Maternity (Cathy Gillies)
This service is to be retained locally. It is to be midwife-led, with support by a consultant obstetrician and a surgeon. There will be a rota for a safe service. Training of midwives has already started, with telemedicine (for backup) and a consultant paediatrician
5 Paediatrics (Chris Langley)
Paediatric care to be provided by GPs, consultant physicians and a consultant paediatrics for support. Training to start next week
6 Public health (Lucy MacLeod)
Is to tighten its links with the local authority and other agency. Training has commenced for national accreditation
7 Psychiatry (Dr Caulcott)
Service to be retained here. The skills of existing professional is to be enhanced.
Care will be CPN [community psychiatric nurse] led; with GPs in the Uists
8 Medical trainees (Dr Dickie)
Western Isles Hospital will continue to be a training centre, and the aim is to maintain skills in this hospital’s environment.
9 Renal services (Phil Tilley)
A renal dialysis centre is to be established at WIH; a lead-nurse has been appointed
10 Radiology (Malcolm McNinch)
A radiologist is available 3 days out of every 7
The service will be radiographer (sic) led, i.e. by the people that take the images. They will be sent by telemedicine (electronically) to a consultant radiologist at a mainland centre. Training has commenced
Surgery & orthopaedics
Maternity & paediatrics
There will be 8 permanent consultants, and 9 on long-term locum contracts. The aim is to minimise locums, because they are unfamiliar with local working practices.
Long term locums are paid a normal rate; short-term locums are paid an hourly rate, determined by an agency which can charge up to £70 an hour. If someone is working or on-call 24/7, then this works out as £11,800 per week, as reported in the media.
Visiting consultants in other specialities (ophthalmology, rheumatology &c) will offer support.
Break down barriers between primary and secondary care
Establish a multi-disciplinary approach
Develop [new] roles for nurses, allied health professionals (AHP) and doctors
Education and training
Remote and rural healthcare: models were developed for the big cities, not for an area like the Western Isles or generally the north of Scotland
Implementation groups will consist of clinical staff, nurses, AHP, support staff and members of the public. A timetable was giving for the implementation
Redesign groups: for Uist & Barra hospital (led by Mr Manson) to optimise utilisation of resources at the Benbecula hospital
The aim is to establish a safe, sustainable service, backed by (mainland) centres of expertise, leading the way in remote / rural healthcare. The care will be as local as possible, and as specialised as necessary.
This was the end of Mr Manson's presentation. The remainder of the meeting, between 6.40 and 8.00 pm, was taken up with a question and answer session. Some of the answers to questions have been worked into the words of Mr Manson, for the sake of clarity.
Cllr for Bayble (Point) asked questions about the redesign of the structure of the Health Board and the provision of psychiatric care, now that the two psychiatrists are retiring
Mr Cook replied that there would be wider training for staff. A meeting with CPNs and medical staff for short term solutions would be sought. Dr Caulcott is going on holidays for 6 months from December 5th, for which a locum would be required. An advertisement for a permanent position would be placed.
Mr Manson replied that the Health Board review would be carried out in the longer term, but current focus would be on frontline services, in cooperation with CnES.
The Cllr remarked that provisions should have been made for the vacancy, which should have been advertised a long time ago. The review appears to be a top-down exercise.
Mr Manson replied that the overheads for WIHB are the lowest in the 6 Health Boards in the north of Scotland (Orkney, Shetland, Highland, Grampian, Tayside and W. Isles).
One other councillor asked about travel expenses
Mr Manson replied that the vast majority of these are on actual health board business, to enhance services.
A service user for psychiatric care expressed concern about the continuity of care in community, and in-patient beds. The waiting time for specialist care was too long. Locums don't cut it, you need regular staff. Oh, Mr Manson, your bodylanguage is wrong. You're condescending (!)
Mr Manson apologised for the last impression.
Dr Michie noted that a number of beds might be retained for emergencies, but this depended on the outcome of the service review.
The user remarked that if care is dispersed to GPs, expertise might be lost
Dr Michie conceded that resources are problematic
One member of the audience read out a statement to Mr Manson, on behalf of a large majority of the nurses.
The nurses are fed up, demoralised and intimidated. A rule of Stalinism is alleged, a reign of fear. Complaints are not made because of fear. Proposed ward closures bring shame on the health board. It is a corrupt regime, devoid of any decency. If grievances are uttered, disciplinary action is taken against the relevant members of staff. Changes are always top down. The working groups consist of management level staff, who impose their own ideas after slapping down workers’ ideas.
Dr John Smith replied to this.
Changes are being implemented from the roots upwards, in order that it’s the workers’ project. There is a movement of care to the primary sector. WIHB is engaging with staff to implement changes.
Professor Sim expanded on some of the themes, touched upon by Mr Manson.
Care is to be offered primarily by trained staff, and skills are to be taken over by other health professionals, which is UK policy. The junior doctor, apart from looking after patients on a day-to-day basis, will focus on their training.
There is a change in surgical practice. The hospital stay after an operation is much shorter. After (e.g.) a gall-bladder operation, a patient can normally expect to go home after 2 days, was 2 weeks. Because of this, the surgical wards will change into one 7-day ward (including paediatrics) and one 5-day (a week) ward.
Medicine will focus on care at home rather than in the hospital because many of the beds on the medical wards lie unused. These unused beds are to be closed.
Obstetrics and orthopaedics: general surgeons will be trained to do work in these fields.
The aim is to provide a safe service, performed by professionals who are properly trained for everything they’re required to do. Transfers to mainland hospitals are to be reduced to the absolute minimum.
A renal and a stroke unit are to be established, using the beds no longer in use on the medical wards. The lead nurse for renal care has been appointed, but will not be in post until February 2006.
There will be no redundancies, but temporary contracts will NOT be extended.
Focus will be on staff retraining and to enrich nursing skill mix. Nurses will be redeployed, to community care. Staff have had a similar presentation in the weeks leading up to today.
Uist & Barra Hospital (Balivanich, Benbecula) is only 4 years old, and has state-of-the-art equipment. Unfortunately, it does not have the facilities to provide the necessary aftercare.
Angus MacNeil, Western Isles MP expressed his concerns about staff morale and wanted an explanation about soaring locum costs.
It was explained that only 4 locums in the last year had been paid the massive £11,800 a week rate. When you’re on-call, you are not actually working – you’re available for work.
Public meeting - 30th November 2005, 19.30 hours
Subject: NHS Western Isles, Service Reform
Location: Stornoway, Town Hall
Purpose: To give the public and staff a voice regarding service reforms
Chair: Cllr Angus Graham (CnES, Gress)
These notes were taken by myself in a private capacity.
Similar points were made by several speakers, which have been grouped together for the purpose of legibility.
On December 1st, Western Isles Health Board are holding a meeting on this matter.
Any comments on matters mentioned welcome
There is an atmosphere of intimidation within Western Isles Health Board (WIHB), as a result of which people do not feel free to speak out. Staff was not permitted to speak out as they were threatened with disciplinary measures if they did. WIHB does not consult the public whom it serves, although public frustration at the lack of consultation is in evidence. The workings of the WIHB are not fully understood. The large turnout this evening demonstrates that WIHB has failed to convince the public of its reforms. WIHB is not accountable to the public, it's a quango (quasi non-governmental organisation), which does not answer to anyone. Local councillors sought a meeting with WIHB to clarify matters on October 25th, but a meeting could not be arranged until December 14th. Consultation was not offered, and questions were not properly answered, or intemperately so. WIHB gave a report of its reforms as an exclusive to local paper Stornoway Gazette only. Professor Sim, head of WIHB, has since written to local councillors to explain.
One of the reforms would be that at night, theatres would be covered by on-call nursing staff. These are not experienced in theatres. It is insufficient and impractical.
Another problem is that the WIHB Chief Executive, Mr Dick Manson, lives on the mainland but commutes to Lewis every weekend by plane, at the tax payers' expense. By virtue of this arrangement he does not contribute in a real sense to the island's economy. Tomorrow evening (December 1st), Mr Manson will explain his plans at the Caberfeidh Hotel in Stornoway at the same time that the ceremony takes place to switch on the Christmas lights. In other words, he shows no interest or commitment to the islands.
Questions that have been asked include:
- where is the recovery plan [there is a 1.5 million pound shortfall in WIHB accounts]
- administrative staff numbers have doubled in recent times, but why should frontline staff face cuts?
- where are the costings for the redesign?
- WIHB cannot vouch for quality of services
- why does WIHB not engage more openly with the public
- why does WIHB say that there are no problems, if 6 formal grievance procedures have been lodged against high-ranking officials within its organisation?
The Western Isles Hospital, and before it, the Lewis Hospital, was a community effort, operated by staff from the local community. Everyone was and still is proud of it.
These changes are affecting staff morale. A listening organisation works better, but no explanations have been forthcoming. Where does the deficit come from, for instance.
If staff is involved with changes, they will be able to offer solutions. Work with staff, with unions. If staff cannot speak to management, credibility will suffer. WIHB staff are talking to local councillors.
Why do student-nurses have to wait for 3 months to have their travel expenses reimbursed. Does the chief executive, Mr Manson, have to wait for 3 months?? Subsistence payments for Mr Manson are a tax dodge. A reduction in travel expenses would help.
Local councillors have found contact with WIHB very frustrating. Staff is urged to express their concerns freely.
It is very sad that this meeting has had to be called in the first place, that the WIHB could not be bothered to speak to its own staff. Why more administrative staff, why not more nurses? There is no formal representation from WIHB present (although Prof. Sim is here in a private capacity). WIHB officials have ridiculed Cllr Graham, saying âAch, itâs Angus Graham, making a fool of himself, againâ. Minutes from a private WIHB meeting have been passed to Cllr Graham. There is a representation on WIHB from CnES (one councillor). Council is underrepresented on WIHB. The way people are elected onto the Board is to be addressed.
The risk is that WIHB be abolished, as happened with Argyll & Clyde Health Board earlier this year. A public meeting was sought between CnES and WIHB, which has not yet been organised. If the outcome of consultation is unsatisfactory, CnES will take this matter to the Scottish Executive.
Councillors from West Harris, North Uist and North Lochs also spoke up to express concerns and delight at numbers present.
Western Isles Kidney Foundation
A renal unit has been discussed for 4 years, since February 2002. At present, dialysis patients are travelling back and forth to the mainland, staying there for a week and returning to the islands over the weekend.
The redesign structure for the NHS, as set up by the Scottish Executive, has proved to be a farce. It has been blanked out by Dick Manson. Minute taking has been blocked and people intimidated. Scottish Executive does not want to know.
Vulnerable people are going to be left in the lurch if there is no resident psychiatrist. WIHB is run by accountants and penpushers. Psychiatric care is at risk, because the current psychiatrist will be leaving shortly. The vacancy was not advertised for 5 months.
Contracts: short term contracts are not to be extended.
Royal College of Nursing: Union rep told staff theyâd be victimised if they spoke up.
Patients are discharged too soon, and the readmission rates are going up. RCN representative present states that people have been advised to be circumspect in their statements. Concerns, fear and apprehension have been expressed â nobody was consulted over proposed changes. There is a lack of accountability, and no minutes were taken of meetings. Collective responsibility means that you donât rock the boat and tow the line. Decisions are imposed from the top down.
Ward closures mean that relatives will need to go to the mainland to visit patients in hospital there. No heed is being paid to the consequences of the reductions. There are social consequences for people going to the mainland, as well as financial. Airfares paid out have doubled. How do families cope with the absence of a parent. The Western Isles has a service economy. Since one surgeon left, 500 extra operations have been carried out on the mainland.
One GP does not believe in preventative medicine â you just leave the elderly and infirm to die. No names given here.
A midwife says she is not intimidated. She is very concerned over the night time cover. No theatre staff will be present at night in the future, although the on-call staff have no theatre experience. Paediatrics has no cover at night or at weekends; GP's will cover.
If a locum consultant costs £800,000 per annum, this makes a pretty decent inroad into the deficit.
Yesterday was cold, but it's a lot milder today. There was overnight rain, which clears away during the morning. The sun breaks through by late morning. A trailer load of logs is delivered to mrs B's backyard. Go out for papers at 3 pm, extending the walk to Amity House. There I find the Jotun Arctic tied up. Only the dogs are on baord. The windows of the boat were smashed in during an Atlantic storm. No sign of the crew, they may be entertained locally. This evening, there will be a public meeting at the Town Hall. The NHS Board is proposing reductions in services at the hospital, because they're Â£1.5 million in the red. The meeting was called because huge expenses bills are being paid to Health Board Executives who commute to and from the island every weekend by plane. Locum costs are also mushrooming - Â£11,000 per man per week. Mounts up, doesn't it. The Health Board stands accused of bullying and intimidation. Not very pretty picture. Darkness falls at 3.45. The meeting, attended by about 1,000 people (Stornoway's population is about 8,000) was chaired by a local councillor. It was intended to give a voice to people who were too scared to speak out internally. And it was a damning indictment of the Health Board management, I'm sorry to report.
Quiet and peaceful this morning. Muirneag sailed last night with a fair few lorries, but returned empty. A Norwegian yacht was expected in, which had sailed through the North West Passage (around Northern Canada) over the last two years. Weather is cloudy but with some clearances. Still chilly, only +2C at 10 a.m.. See some nice webcam images of snow covered Skye. After lunch, I take mrs B for a walk from the Iolaire Monument back to Newton, 2Â¼ miles / 3.8 km. It's a high point with very nice views. The Clisham range peeps over the Arnish hills, all in white. Skye is not properly visible, due to showerclouds. A shower passes over the mainland hills, leaving them whiter than before. The ferry can be seen heading for Loch Broom, to the north of Ruadh Reidh. In the bay south of the Braighe, a cargoship is lying with quite a serious list. Didn't bring the binoculars with me, but can make out that the coastguard tug is in attendance. Mrs B has not previously visited the monument. As we make our way down, a yacht with a Norwegian flag sails past, heading into port. I learn that this is the Jotun Arctic, which I referred to earlier. The cargoship slowly manoeuvres around Holm Point, where it takes a pilot on board. We make our way through the bogs and briar to Stoneyfield Farm. A novel experience for mrs B, and at times a helping hand is required. She manages the gates, has qualms about the banks of seaweed and the gravel, but all is well once we reach the road at Lower Sandwick. She points out which people live in which house. She used to live in this village until 1972. We return to Newton at 4pm. The timberboat, still listing, has now manoeuvred alongside the ferrypier. In the evening, mrs B's sister calls in as she is leaving for Tyneside tomorrow.
Today dawns cold with some snow showers passing through. They leave a thin layer of snow on the ground, which stays. Outside temperature does not feel desperately cold, although it can't be much above freezing. Sun peeps through the shower clouds. Things clear up as the morning progresses. By 11.30 we have a rain shower, as shown by the rainbow. MV Muirneag sails into port at that time, 4 hours later than normal. Empty by the look of her. Cannot see it very well against the low sun. As the afternoon progresses, the showers virtually disappear. Skye has had a good helping of snow, 3 inches. Night falls at 4 pm, after which not a lot else happens. Watch a heart rending report about the way cats are being treated in China. Their fur is used for making furcoats! Paul McCartney is all up in arms about it. I say: stop wearing fur!
Click here for BBC report