Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan, together with councillors representing Uist, has called for proposals that would see dental services centralised to a hub in Ospadal Uibhist agus Bharraigh (Uist & Barra Hospital) return to the Western Isles Integrated Joint Board for another vote.

The Integrated Joint Board has put forward its preferred model for the delivery of dental care in Uist which consists of a single service operating from Ospadal Uibhist agus Bharraigh. That would involve the closure of the dental clinics in Lochmaddy and Liniclate, with the clinic in Lochboisdale already having been closed in April 2017.

When this issue was discussed at the Western Isles Integrated Joint Board in February 2018, board members were evenly split on an amendment put forward by Cllr Paul Steele not to proceed with the hub model and to instead explore the development of a three site model. It then passed to the Chief Executives of the Comhairle and NHS Western Isles to come to a joint decision on that amendment. It was recently announced that the Chief Executives had, after a year and a half, decided to proceed with the hub model.

The proposal has been met with strong local opposition since its inception and the local MSP has continued to raise this matter on behalf of people in Uist.

Alasdair Allan MSP said:

“This announcement has come as a blow to people in Uist, who have had to endure a year and a half’s worth of waiting to see this issue progress. Communities in Uist remain virulently opposed to these proposals and this is a position which has - if anything - only intensified since the plans were first put forward.

“The dental health of islanders has improved drastically over the course of the last decade, overcoming a historically poor reputation. However, I am deeply concerned that the proposed hub model will stall or reverse the huge progress that has been made.

“During the series of public meetings held in 2017, attendees asked some very probing questions about the rationale of these proposals and the financial and operational cases presented. Two years on, none of these points are any clearer and there remains a range of shortcomings in what is being put forward.

“Given the amount of time that has since elapsed, the controversial nature of these proposals and the total lack of support they have in Uist, I believe it would be wrong for this proposal to go forward without further recourse to IJB board members.

Cllr Paul Steele said:

“I am extremely disappointed that my amendment to the IJB to “not agree to the hub and outreach model and agree to explore the development of a three site model (Option 1 outlined at the options appraisal event held on 29 November 2016)” or some form of it, has not been taken forward by the Chief Executives of CnES and NHSWI as the IJB’s preferred position on the redesign of Dental Services in Uist.

“It would have led to a report analysing the 3 hub model rather than a centralised hub model and that would have bypassed the issue of the IJB’s (not fit for purpose) dispute resolution mechanism actually allowing the IJB members to come to a decision based on all the facts meaning they could then recommend a service redesign that would benefit the service users and providers.

“The Uist Community were quite clear in their opposition to the centralised hub proposal at all 3 of the Community Engagement events, what this decision clearly shows is that the consultations were just a tick box exercise.

“It’s therefore hard to argue against the community position that consultations are not worth engaging with as the decisions are made regardless of their views. When we’re talking to people about Community Empowerment I can’t see how this decision gives the people of Uist any confidence in those areas or the governance processes of our public bodies.”

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