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Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has hit back at NHS Western Isles, after a statement yesterday (Tuesday 14 May) seemed to shift blame for cuts to popular health improvement programmes at island sports centres.

Four sport and health jobs are reportedly at risk after NHSWI’s new director of public health looked for budget cuts.

The four posts include a full-time ‘Move More’ role at Lewis Sports Centre, which provides a 12-week programme of gentle prescription exercise for people with cancer and other serious illnesses.

Two further Move More posts in Uist and Barra and one diabetes and weight management healthy exercise post are also reportedly at risk, all co-funded by CnES and NHSWI.

Since we first reported the possible cuts on 8 May (here) both NHS Western Isles and the Comhairle have been marshalling their responses.

Yesterday NHS Western Isles appeared to suggest (here) that patients failing to complete the 12-week programme had led to the cuts, while the Comhairle had been unwilling to engage in discussions.

But in a statement today (Wednesday) depute leader Cllr Duncan Macinnes MBE, expressed disappointment at the move from NHS Western Isles to withdraw funding from the Move More Western Isles programme. 

The Comhairle said that the programme has delivered positive outcomes since its introduction in 2017 and has become key in supporting the long-term health of the population. 

They gave figures to support their position, saying that, for the period of 2023/24, Move More Western Isles has received 248 referrals and carried out 5070 interventions with clients, including follow-on users.

From those who participated in the programme,136 (or 69%) completed the full programme and 153 completed at least 75% of the programme. 

Although the Comhairle hosts the jobs and provides the employment support, they said that the funding provided by NHS Western Isles is crucial to the continued delivery of the service, including the employment of Move More team members. 

And, they added, in direct contradiction to NHSWI’s claim of yesterday, since the first announcement of this decision Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has engaged with NHS Western Isles, who have now agreed to further formal discussions on the matter.

Cllr Duncan Macinnes said: "Move More is a programme that has delivered successful outcomes to so many people across the Western Isles.

“The success of the programme has been outlined in the past by NHS Western Isles with the sharing of positive testimony from service users, clear examples of exactly what this service means to its users and why it is so essential.

“At a time when both the Comhairle and the NHS face difficult financial decisions and funding shortfalls it is vital that we plan and work together to deliver the best outcomes we can for the public and to protect much needed and valued jobs.

“These difficult decisions require full consultation and assessment rather than the uncertainty caused by the manner of this announcement.

“I welcome further discussions with NHS on this matter and encourage a change of position to ensure that this uncertainty does not turn into real negative impacts."

Running alongside the Move More programme in Stornoway are regular fitness programmes which participants describe as of great health and social benefit, including a gentle walking group, supported use of gym equipment and regular aquafit classes.

The four post-holders are understood to be on short-term emergency contracts extending to 31 May while negotiations continue.

The picture shows John Kennedy, now 91, a regular participant in Aquafit, with Move More co-ordinator and Aquafit instructor Kirsty Wade (Ionad Spors Leodhais).