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Woman’s charity bid to help patients at Highlands’ only large NHS mental health facility New Craigs Hospital in Inverness

By Alasdair Fraser

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New Craigs Hospital.
New Craigs Hospital.

A woman moved by the plight of patients who spend prolonged periods in care at the Highlands’ only mental health hospital is setting up a charity aimed at improving their lives.

After receiving “fantastic backing” for her idea from NHS staff and management at New Craigs Hospital, situated on the western outskirts of Inverness, Jacqueline McKay (56) is seeking volunteers to help make the charity a reality.

Herself a nurse at Caithness General Hospital, Mrs McKay has spent the last 10 months making weekly 210-mile round trips from Wick to visit a close relative at the psychiatric facility.

She has taken steps to form Friends of New Craigs Hospital, which would seek to raise funding for the “little extras” that central hospital budgets cannot fund.

Jacqueline McKay, who is setting up Friends of New Craigs Hospital.
Jacqueline McKay, who is setting up Friends of New Craigs Hospital.

Acutely aware of the daily challenges for patients, not least from boredom during lengthy stays, Mrs McKay wants to fund a wide variety of purchases such as portable radios, arts and crafts, toiletries or even a haircut.

If enough volunteers step forward to meet statutory demands, a quorum of five or six can meet statutory demands by forming a charity committee.

“Mental illness of a close family member has had a huge impact on our family life, but the main impact is on the person coping and dealing with their own mental illness,” Mrs McKay said.

“I’ve witnessed the turmoil and trauma people endure, as well as the stigma attached to mental illness.

“It is not like a physical illness. You can't see it. It affects the way you think, feel and behave. There is no quick fix solution.

“Depending on type and severity of illness, patients could be in a ward environment for weeks or months.

“I’ve always felt like New Craigs is the hospital on the hill that everybody forgets. You see how people there are missing out on so much.

“It can be a struggle even for families to visit, given the huge geographic area New Craigs serves. Sometimes, too, it is a struggle for families to cope and accept what is going on.

New Craigs Hospital.
New Craigs Hospital.

“I wanted to try to set up this proposed charity to benefit patients, so the group could purchase items that would provide extra comforts within the ward environment to help alleviate boredom and aid relaxation, any items that would benefit the wards themselves and bring that bit of normality.

“I just want to put the word out there, to try and raise funds and help these people.”

Earlier this year, the idea crystallised, inspired by similar charities at large general hospitals.

Mrs McKay, who has one volunteer on board already, took advice from Caithness Voluntary Group then entered discussions with New Craigs’ charge nurses and management.

The next step, once the charity is formed, will be to take soundings from patients themselves on where little comforts and improvements to daily life would make a difference.

Friends of New Craigs charity flyer.
Friends of New Craigs charity flyer.

“I’ve had absolutely fantastic support from the hospital team,” Mrs McKay said. “They have pledged to support us in any way they can.

“I’ve created the social media page and the posters, but it is just such a vast geographical area and that’s why I’m asking for help from others and trying to get the word out there.

“It is something close to my heart and I can see things that would be of great benefit to patients if the funding was there to provide it.”

More information on the proposed charity
can be found here.

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