Members of Blairgowrie and Rattray Community Council raised a number of issues with representatives from Perth and Kinross Health and Social Care Partnership at the community council’s most recent meeting, held last week.
Following a presentation by Amanda Taylor and Lisa Milligan, community councilors queried why it was so difficult for members of the public to access the care and treatment services available in Blairgowrie Cottage Hospital.
Conservative-elected councilor for the Blairgowrie and the Glens ward, Bob Brawn, also raised concerns.
He said: “We have had people turning up at the hospital with injuries that could not be treated there and they had to be directed to A&E.
“We were told before Covid that there would be a local number that people could phone to get advice – not 111, which can take 20 to 30 minutes to answer. People can die in that time.”
Ms Taylor responded by explaining: “We’re trying to help the community understand where they should be present. The minor injuries process is to dial 111 and they will triage you.
“If people are phoning NHS 24 it should not be a very severe case.
“If someone is quite unwell they should phone 999.
“We have had people present at Blairgowrie Cottage Hospital who have been really at risk when they should be being treated in an ambulance on their way to Ninewells where they are going to get the specialist care that they need.
“The minor injuries service is just that. We are trying to get people to present at the right place.
“This is about safety.”
She added: “You can have a video call with a professional who will look at a wound and tell you where to go.
“It’s about helping people self-manage their conditions and we are in the process of starting to develop an urgent care pathway for the local area.
“Clinical triage is the most important part which is why we are not going with a local number so services can work collaboratively”
Sam Stewart from the community council said: “People are being told to go to Ninewells or Perth and to find their own way there. To the general public it looks like there is no minor injury service in Blairgowrie.
“No one can access minor injuries services at Blairgowrie Cottage Hospital and people have been told by NHS 111 that there was no minor injuries services at Blairgowrie Cottage Hospital.”
Ms Taylor said that that was “a communication issue that needs to be looked at and fed back”.
Fellow community councilor Pete Richardson commented: “The town is getting bigger and bigger and is going to need the services at the hospital more and more.”
Ms Taylor said: “It’s not the same service as you had before but we can assure you that we are trying to find a balance of managing people safely and providing a service.
“We are trying to direct people to the right place at the right time.
“There have been some instances where people have been presented at the Cottage Hospital who should have gone straight to A&E.”
And she added: “We are working to develop processes and pathways to improve that and make it better.”
Chair of the community council Scott MacGregor said that he had called about breathing difficulties and waited four and a half hours for an ambulance.
He pointed out: “I used to be able to go to the minor injuries unit where they would treat me with a nebuliser. The ambulance came and just gave me a nebuliser.
“If I could have gone to the minor injuries unit it would have saved the ambulance coming out and I could have had treatment sooner.”
Ms Stewart added: “We understand that you don’t want to send people with serious conditions to the minor injuries unit but it works the other way round too – I’m pretty sure Ninewells don’t want me presenting with a scratch or calling an ambulance for a nebuliser.
“It’s putting a strain on other services.”
She also said that mental health care is “not up to standard in our community”, a point which Ms Taylor said would be fed back to the mental health team.
Conservative-elected councilor for the Blairgowrie and the Glens ward, Caroline Shiers, was at the meeting.
She said: “I think face-to-face dialogue is going to be really important in terms of clearing up the lack of understanding about the services that are available.
“I wonder if a taskforce can be set up for interested people to take these issues forward with services. It would be beneficial for the community and the service providers and teams involved.”
Speaking to the Blairie afterwards she added: “I would like to see a meaningful public engagement around the future of health service delivery in the wider Blairgowrie area.
“I suggested a working group from the communities locally and working with the NHS, Health and Social Care Partnership to understand what is on offer, what the needs are within the growing community and how communication can be improved.
“What came over loud and clear, both at the community council and with our recent petition, is people greatly value and want access to as many services as possible as locally as possible.”
And SNP councilor Tommy McEwan said: “There have been many changes to the services at the cottage hospital over the past two years and I appreciate the difficulty in communicating these changes the IJB and NHS have faced.
“They have confirmed there has been no removal of services, but it is obvious that from local feedback the ability to use the minor injuries unit is not as the community, NHS or IJB would wish or expect.
“I hope that the NHS and IJB will take the learning outcomes from the BRCC meeting back to the committee and ensure services like NHS 24 are aware of the cottage hospital minor injuries service and the great option it provides for those local to Blairgowrie.”