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Just 1 out of 25 Highland hospitals inspected in the last 5 years

By Scott Maclennan

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Raigmore Hospital. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Raigmore Hospital. Picture: James Mackenzie.

Raigmore is the only NHS Highland hospital out of 25 to have been inspected in the last five years in what is by far the largest territorial health board in Scotland, according to “gravely concerning” new figures.

Furthermore Dr Gray’s in Elgin has – alongside Aberdeen Maternity Hospital and Stobhill Hospital in Glasgow – not been inspected within the last five years by Healthcare Improvement Scotland.

The Scottish Conservatives have revealed how in the last half decade the log of the agency charged with improving healthcare shows that 65 – comprising a majority of the country’s hospitals – have not been inspected.

In all 36 hospitals across Scotland have never been inspected and further 29 haven’t been inspected in the last five years with rural areas “disproportionately impacted” as the bulk of the 65 hospitals are located outside of towns and cities.

In all, one third of all hospitals that have never been inspected are in the Highland area, while just one in the whole of the Highlands has been inspected within the last five years.

The NHS Highland board area is massive and extends from John O’Groats in the north to Campbeltown in the south – a distance of 313 miles by vehicle – which is about the same distance from Caithness to Norway.

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Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary, Sandesh Gulhane MSP said: “The fact that over half of hospitals across Scotland haven’t been inspected in five years is gravely concerning.

“Inspections play a vital role in reassuring patients and staff that their hospital is safe and operating as it should be.

“It is especially alarming to see that rural areas have been disproportionately affected – a depressing trend with this SNP-Green government.

“Those living in rural areas already face too many barriers to accessing healthcare. They should be able to take comfort in knowing that, when they do access it, they are receiving the best care at their local hospital. That goes for all patients across Scotland.

“At a time when our NHS is overwhelmed and hardworking frontline staff are under immense pressure, it is shocking that basic inspections aren’t being carried out to measure how they are coping.

“For too long NHS patients have suffered at the hands of the SNP’s dire workforce planning and mismanagement of our health service. It appears that under-resourcing extends to inspections too.

“Michael Matheson must take steps urgently to get a grip of Scotland’s failing inspections system.”

A spokesperson for Healthcare Improvement Scotland said: “Our programme of NHS hospital inspections is focused on assuring the safe delivery of care. Taking account of changing risks and service pressures since the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been adapting our inspection process to continue to provide robust public assurance that is reflective of, and responsive to, the service pressures currently faced by the NHS in Scotland.

“Our approach remains focused on helping services identify and minimise risk to support patient safety and continuous improvement. We have an established inspection prioritisation procedure in place which helps us to target inspection resources to best effect. The process for prioritising inspections is regularly refreshed and includes analysis of a range of available data and intelligence to identify issues and adapt our inspection focus accordingly.

“Our current inspection process is much broader than previous inspection approaches, considering a complex and comprehensive range of factors that impact on safety and quality of care, to provide assurance to patients and the public, and support ongoing improvements in care.

"Following each inspection, we publish inspection reports to outline our findings and the actions being taken by NHS boards in response to our findings.”

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