A Scottish grandmother has sent an emotional message to Nicola Sturgeon about the arduous journey she faces to attend fifteen minute hospital appointments.
Dorothy Anderson, 79, from Thurso, suffers double vision and breathlessness caused by the neuromuscular disease myasthenia.
She spells out, in a poignant video recording, the toll that her monthly 200 mile return trips to Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, are taking on her.
Mrs Anderson’s journey entails her getting up at 5am, to use a nebuliser before travelling, and getting home as late as 11pm - all for a fifteen minute appointment to see a throat specialist, neurologist, or to have her tracheostomy tube checked.
Her message, which was played at Holyrood during a meeting of Caithness Health Action Team representatives with government and health officials, including Health Minister Shona Robson and NHS Highland Chief Executive Elaine Mead, is now attracting thousands of views on Facebook.
Mrs Anderson, fighting back tears at times during the short video, said: “I would like to ask Nicola Sturgeon and Shona Robison and Elaine Mead, would any of them be happy to let their mother or their granny travel in a train - if it’s going - for four and a half hours, or on a bus - if it doesn’t break down halfway - to go to an appointment?”
“It’s just too far and very often there is not even a trolley to get a drink of tea or anything in the morning.”
Holding a photo of herself, showing how she looked before the long journeys to access basic NHS services had taken their toll, she continues her plea, saying: “I would just like them - if any of them want to come to my house any time and have a chat, I could tell them so many stories and I would like to let them see what I looked like just a year ago. When you are not well you just can’t fight for it.
“I was quite an active person and I want to be an active person again and I don’t want to rely on other people.
“I am one of the lucky ones because I have got a good family, but I know a lot of people are on their own and I am fighting for them and for my grandchildren, they need a hospital.
“People are not going to come up here with their young families to live if there is not a decent hospital within a hundred miles. We have got a good hospital and good nurses and good doctors up here and we would like to keep them.”
Ron Gunn, Vice Chairman of Caithness Health Action Team, who took the video and attended the meeting at Holyrood, said: “When Dorothy heard that we were going to meet the Health Minister she said, will you take a letter down, or record me?
So I said I will take a video on my phone.
“Shona Robison was opposite me at the meeting, so I showed her the video and had a loudspeaker so everyone could hear it.”
However, he said Mrs Anderson’s message was met with a wall of silence and added: “Shona Robison did write something down, but there was no response, there was silence in the room.”
Mrs Anderson is just one of more than 11,000 people from the far north of Scotland who had to travel to Raigmore Hospital for outpatient appointments last year, because the services were not available locally, said Mr Gunn, adding: “I took my son down to see a specialist and the specialist asked two questions and said - OK, I will refer you to someone else. Some people have been down just to get a blood test.”
Mrs Anderson’s son, Stephen, 57, said: “They took her all the way down there once for a blood test, it’s the same for everyone, everyone has to go to Inverness for things where at one time you could go to Wick.
“It’s a tiring journey and I have seen a change in mum, she is getting fed up with it, she has to go on a nebuliser for an hour before she travels so she gets up at 5am and it can be 11 o’clock at night before she gets home. They think Thurso is just over the bridge from Inverness but it’s not “