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A spectacular public row has erupted between Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and NHS Western Isles over the fate of four jobs and an entire health support programme in the isles. 

NHSWI has claimed it was a waste of time and money as too few people completed the programme; CnES has completely rejected this claim. 

The heath board wants it scrapped by the end of the month; the Council is fighting to keep it alive. 

Move More was initiated by Macmillan Cancer Support with a single post at Lewis Sports Centre, held by qualified sports coach and athlete Kirsty Wade. It’s since been augmented by two further posts in Uist and Barra and by another supporting patients at risk of diabetes.

In a public statement today (Tuesday May 21) CnES said that on Friday 17 May NHS Western Isles confirmed its decision to withdraw funding from the MoveMore programme.

CnES says: "The well-regarded MoveMore Western Isles programme is delivered in partnership by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and NHS Western Isles and supports individuals living with one or more long-term condition (including cancer), to improve their health by increasing their physical activity.

"NHS Western Isles contributes £50,000 per annum to support the delivery of the programme.

"Comhairle nan Eilean Siar was first made aware of the prospect of the removal of funding when a Comhairle officer was contacted by email on 12 April. The email indicated that due to issues around the availability of funding, it was not possible for NHS Western Isles to negotiate a renewal of the MoveMore agreement in its current form.

"NHS Western Isles has since publicly suggested that the performance of the programme was the reason for the removal of funding, stating that 45% of those referred to the programme do not complete it. The MoveMore statistics for 2023/24 are provided in full below including the 2023/24 completion rate of 69% (those who engaged with the programme). [This paragraph has been corrected by CnES since this article was first published]

Full Move More Stats 2023/24

  • 248 referrals.
  • 196 agreed to participate or were deemed appropriate for the 12-week programme.
  • 136 completed the full programme (69% of those who engaged with the programme).
  • 153 completed at least 75% of the programme. 
  • 5070 interventions with clients.

Councillor Duncan Macinnes, Depute Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said: “Over the last week friends, colleagues and members of the public have told me just how important MoveMore is to them and those they know. The programme’s success and the high regard it is held in by the public is testament to the close partnership work of all NHS and Comhairle employees involved in the programme’s delivery and I commend them for this.                                                                                                              

“NHS Western Isles and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar receive a limited amount of money to deliver services to the people of the Western Isles. It is the Comhairle’s view that the way to make best use of this money is to share resources between organisations and deliver services in partnership. The MoveMore model was a great example of this in action.

"Since 2017 NHS Western Isles has been able to support the employment of staff, the delivery of a service to hundreds of individuals and contribute to an improvement to the long-term health and wellbeing of the community with an annual contribution of just £50,000.

“It is difficult to understand why NHS Western Isles has taken the decision to jeopardise a programme that is popular and achieves results for a saving of £50,000 per year.

"To do so without full consultation with the Comhairle is not in keeping with the partnership that has made the programme a success and as a consequence has caused uncertainty for employees and service users.

"Discussions on this matter will continue and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar will take all reasonable steps to find a solution that works for those that rely on the service.”