Oxygen Works charity under financial pressure due to rising demand

The Inverness-based facility costs £270,000 a year to operate and currently faces a £60,000 deficit.

Record demand for an oxygen chamber to treat multiple sclerosis and a host of other illnesses has left an Inverness charity struggling to keep up.

It hopes to add staff but an increase in illnesses post-Covid and intense competition for donations has added to cost pressures.

Clients come from across Scotland and even abroad for treatment at The Oxygen Works in the Highland capital.

In an era of tight budgets and unprecedented competition for charitable donations, the rare facility costs £270,000 a year to operate and currently faces a £60,000 deficit.

The Oxygen Works handled more than 6,500 appointments last year. It has a waiting list running into the autumn.

It is anxious to increase its staff to help more people.

Chief executive Leigh-Ann Little said: “We’re already seeing a shift in people coming to use our services.

“But within the last year and particularly the last few months, with budget cuts to statutory support services, we’re seeing more and more people coming through our doors and looking for help.

“Without being able to generate that income we can’t then grow the services that we provide, and the stark reality is that if we can’t continue to keep that money coming in, services like we provide at the Oxygen Works will either reduce or diminish completely over time.”

Davy Duncan from Fort William is a regular visitor to the charity’s gym and hyperbaric chamber. He was a keen athlete before Covid struck him hard three years ago and doctors gave him days to live.

“It’s been really good since we’ve come here,” he said. “Generally, I find it easier when we’ve got the right people around us.”

Defying the odds, and with the aid of a specialised wheelchair, he and his wife Helen – an ultra-marathon runner – aim to raise funds for the charity by entering September’s Loch Ness Marathon.

Ex-haulier Donald MacRitchie, who is among MS sufferers who regularly use the centre, said: “We all go away feeling really looked after.”

Echoing that, Shani Lynch, who lives in Muir of Ord, said: “You come here and they’re all lovely people, all willing to make you smile.

“We always have a laugh when I come here, so it’s lovely.”

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