The proposals to improve surgical services in NHS Tayside which have been approved by the Scottish Government have left local residents dismayed.
For many in the more rural areas, the prospect of having to attend Ninewells for emergency care is a daunting one. Whilst most accept that Ninewells is probably the better equipped hospital for major emergencies, the loss of an Accident and Emergency facility in Perth is potentially dangerous.
NHS Tayside covers a large region including Aberfeldy, Pitlochry, Crieff, Auchterarder and many more smaller settlements. It seems ridiculous for patients who are suffering life threatening conditions to have to drive past Perth to Dundee.
Then you have the travelling distance for family members. Most of the time when a hospital admission is an emergency, family members bring clothing and other essentials when the patient is in a ward. What used to be a relatively quick trip now becomes something much more intimidating.
It may only be an additional 20 minutes drive according to Google maps but from personal experience that drive becomes exhausting after you have done it a few times.
The logic of having Ninewells as the emergency base is sound. The practicalities however may be rather different. How many local residents will still attend PRI with emergencies because that is what they are used to? How many will have to be seen and then turned away to Ninewells? Will there be transport to take them or will they be turned away at the door without being seen?
How many times will the extra travel time cause a worsening of a critically ill patient?
For those of us in rural communities, the wait time for an ambulance can be bad enough, add to that the additional travel time for treatment and who knows. This of course puts an enormous pressure on the already struggling emergency services. Paramedics and ambulance technicians will now have to attend to patients for much longer than they did previously in many cases.
Health Secretary Jane Freeman may is quoted as saying “I have been clear that an absolute condition of agreeing to these proposals is that the A&E at the PRI will be retained and continue to serve the people of Perthshire.” An A&E without the ability to admit patients is not what most would consider to be serving the people of Perthshire.