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Health / MSP disappointed by government response on MRI scanner funding

HIGHLANDS and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant says it is “very disappointing” that the Scottish Government will not provide additional funding support for the MRI scanner proposed for Shetland.

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant wrote to health secretary Jeane Freeman asking if she would now consider putting some money forward to support the service after the £1.65 million fundraising target for the scanner was reached last year.

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant. Photo: Shetland News

Freeman said that while the benefits of the scanner are acknowledged, additional Scottish Government funding above what is already provided to NHS Shetland is not justified.

Grant commented: “The health secretary is basing her calculations on the fact that demand for the scanner would be one day a week, but this is what island and rural areas always face, the balance between the number of people using the service and the fact that a service is so much better when it is close-to-home.

“We will never break free of the centralisation of services if it is purely a numbers game and it is about time the Scottish Government woke up to that.

“I realise that specialist treatment and complicated surgery will nearly always been be in main centres, to capture the skills and experience of consultants and surgeons, but equipment such as a scanner will make such a difference to people who may already be very sick and face long journeys otherwise.

“It is very disappointing to hear the Scottish Government continue with the same old argument.”

Freeman said in a letter to Grant: “As I set out in my previous letter, while the benefit of an MRI for the local community is acknowledged by the Scottish Government, we must consider services and funding of those services to ensure appropriate provision across all of Scotland.

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 “As a consequence, regrettably, it is not always possible to justify funding for provision of all services in all areas.

“The demand for scanning in Shetland is around one day per week, and there would still be a need for specialised scans and supportive care to continue to be provided off the island.

“This is an example of where justification with regards to provision of additional Scottish Government funding (above that already provided to the Board), in this case for an MRI scanner in Shetland, is not always possible.

“However, as you have noted, NHS Shetland intends to proceed with purchase and commissioning of an MRI scanner and the full cost of this, along with additional staff costs in the first year, will be met by funds already in place.

“NHS National Services Scotland is assisting the Board with the development of the clinical specification and the procurement process and the Board expect procurement and implementation to complete in 2022.

“It is expected that future costs will be covered through their baseline funding and the Board will also be able to reinvest savings made as a result of not sending some patients to NHS Grampian for some scans.”

In October last year it was announced that the fundraising target for the MRI scanner had been reached after the community rallied together.

This was helped along in its final stages by a £500,000 donation from Shetland Charitable Trust as well as £200,000 from the Shetland Community Benefit Fund.

A report to members of the NHS Shetland board earlier this year said that “multiple work streams” are ongoing in terms of procurement, clinical specification and the scanner’s eventual location.

MRI scanners can diagnose cancer, strokes, heart conditions and many other conditions and having one in Lerwick would complement the existing CT scanner, which uses X-rays and a computer to create detailed images of the inside of the body.

At the moment people have to travel south to have MRI scans, with the hope that having one in Lerwick would significantly reduce the amount of trips people have to make to the mainland.

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