Welcome to Jura: a drug thief’s paradise

STAFF at a surgery on a remote Scottish island have been ordered to stop leaving prescription drugs in an unmanned, unlocked foyer for collection.

NHS Highland has told staff members at the surgery on Jura to halt the practice following a complaint over safety issues and patient confidentiality.

Michael Varley, 64, of Craighouse, Jura, said earlier complaints, to a doctor who has since left the island, were ignored – as if drug security was not needed on a remote island.

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However, NHS Highland stepped in when Mr Varley raised his concerns again on a patient blogsite.

The health board told the surgery, which is currently manned by locum GPs as the search for a permanent doctor continues, to change its ways.

Mr Varley said: “The porch door is not locked at night, it’s open 24/7 and the prescriptions are just left there.

“This has been going on for years and it’s a disaster waiting to happen, especially with all the holidaymakers we have coming on to the island.

“Many drugs are valuable on the black market drugs scene. Nothing has happened yet but, with drugs, once something does happen it will be too late to do anything about it.

“Prevention is the best form of security.”

He added: “I brought it up with a doctor in the past, at a patients’ meeting, but I was told that patients prefer it because it’s easier for them.

“It means they can pick up prescriptions when they want. But it’s wrong, in the Medicine, Ethics and Practice Guide it states in there that prescriptions should not be on public show, because of patient confidentiality.

“It’s ethically wrong that prescriptions are on show to members of the public.

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Prescriptions are a private thing, nobody else should know. There’s also the fact that if a prescription is lying there people know someone is on holiday.”

Argyll and Bute SNP MSP Michael Russell said: “This is clearly unacceptable, but it does reflect the continuing difficulties on Jura in securing a full time medical presence.

“Better arrangements for the island are needed and I will continue to press the health board to secure them.”

Argyll LibDem MP Alan Reid added: “The health board have a duty to ensure that rules that have been put in place for patients’ safety and confidentiality are adhered to.”

Caroline Champion, planning and public involvement manager for NHS Highland (Argyll and Bute Community Health Partnership) said Mr Varley had been justified in questioning the ethics of leaving prescription drugs in an open area where anyone could access them.

She added: “The Jura surgery will be letting patients know that this system will change after a period of notice.”

The surgery has informed islanders that medicines will only be available for collection from a member of staff from 1 February.

Mamie Thompson, head of public relations for NHS Highland, said: “NHS Highland is in the process of checking that this issue in not being repeated elsewhere.

“We believe this to be an isolated incident but want to satisfy ourselves that best practice is in place.”

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