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Health board promises better service

NHS SHETLAND (NHSS) will start implementing changes to the way staff work in the next few months as part of a three year clinical strategy to improve the service during tough financial times.

On Tuesday the health board approved the clinical strategy which should make better use of existing staff and resources to save money and make the service more effective.

During a major year long consultation exercise, staff and local people said they were concerned about duplication of services and unnecessary trips to Lerwick or Aberdeen for follow up appointments.

Health managers have promised “a cultural change” that will see patients taking fewer journeys, nurses being deployed more in the community and a streamlined appointment system so individuals can see all the professionals they need to in one go.

All the islands’ 10 health centres are to remain, but the NHS plan to close their inpatient unit at Lerwick’s Montfield Hospital, freeing up 800 square metres of space for other services, including dentistry.

The proposals have been developed from suggestions made at a series of 50 meetings around the isles, at which only 246 people turned up. Some meetings in remote locations like Unst, Fair Isle and Hillswick were well attended, but no one turned up to discuss the proposals in Brae.

The three year strategy is to help the health service survive the “unprecedented financial challenges” that lie ahead, especially as it already carries a “significant underlying deficit”, while the islands’ population profile gets older.

Some of the suggestions include:

•providing simple medical appointments at a health centre rather than hospital;

•nurses spending more time in the community and at care homes;

•providing more health care at home;

•more surgical procedures like Caesarian sections being carried out in Lerwick;

•providing a 24 hour response for people suffering mental health problems to reduce the number of people being transferred off the islands to a mental health unit;

•ambulance crews working alongside nurses and doctors in the accident and emergency ward; and

•developing a Shetland-based NHS 24 service.

Director of clinical services Simon Bokor Ingram said he hoped that patients would see improvements in the quality of the service as changes are gradually introduced over the summer.

“Patients shouldn’t notice a big bump, these changes should happen gradually and threw should be plenty of information about what is changing,” he said.