Support service ‘saved’

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WIGTOWNSHIRE residents with respiratory problems were celebrating this week after NHS Dumfries and Galloway confirmed the support service would now continue until June.

Two weeks ago, the Galloway Gazette highlighted the problem when the NHS threatened to cut costs by removing the respiratory nurse and an occupational therapist who work with people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease - COPD.

Patients in the area, including the Machars Breathing Support and the Stranraer Breath Easy Group, were concerned that the loss of this vital service would hinder their recovery and result in hospitalisation.

But on Tuesday it was confirmed that the service would now continue until the summer with an indication that funding would be available to protect the two posts in the long term.

Chief Operating Officer Jeff Ace said: “This extension will allow time to formulate and agree a permanently funded service model.”

Stranraer and North Rhins Councillor Willie Scobie added: “This is a tremendous result from the two meetings I and other Labour colleagues have had with the Health Board.

“The pulmonary service will not be terminated as in March as first announced but extended to June to allow for a report to be prepared to go to the Health Board and the council to come up with the money to core fund this valuable service. The Health Board has been given £2.5 million for this type of service where it keeps people out of hospital so I see no reason for the pulmonary service not to be funded.”

Labour”s Health Board member Tommy Sloan said: “I am delighted with the outcome of our meetings with Jeff Ace from the Health Board. He has come back with a positive way forward that not only maintains the service but has ideas of how it might be enhanced.”

Mr Scobie is now arranging to meet with the service users and explain the services more fully.

Ursula Muntz, from the Machars Breathing Support, said: “I gather there was a positive meeting in Stranraer yesterday with Geoff Ace, NHS Chief Operating Officer, Stranraer Councillors and members of Stranraer Breathe Easy regarding future funding after June for Respiratory Nurse Care and Physio to continue.”

Mrs Muntz added that her group was now hoping to resume its fortnightly classes in Newton Stewart Hospital.