THE SCOTTISH government has set up a working group tasked to look at fairer funding for the island health boards in Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles.
The group will focus on the cost of providing a minimum level of service in remote and rural areas, the costs of GP out-of-hours services, and the additional costs that come with the distant island allowance paid to NHS staff working on the isles.
The move was welcomed by Shetland MSP Tavish Scott who had questioned the SNP government on the issue.
Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon told the LibDem MSP that the Technical Advisory Group on Resource Allocation (TAGRA) had on several occasions examined the needs of island NHS boards, and has now established a dedicated remote and rural sub-group to look closer into some of the issues.
Mr Scott said the Scottish government had accepted that island health boards were under particular financial pressure.
“Shetland needs a health service that meets the needs of islanders. That is increasingly difficult given the financial squeeze which is hitting all public sector bodies.
“I want the Scottish government to understand that proper funding has to be provided to NHS Shetland for the delivery of a minimum level of health service across Shetland.
“So this new group, when looking at these issues, needs to ensure that government ministers can make the right decisions over funding for island health boards. Funding has to be provided to ensure that we have the doctors, nurses and ancillary staff needed to treat and help patients across Shetland,” he said.
However the group will not look at a number of issues raised by the Shetland MSP, such as additional costs for staff from island boards to attend training events and national meetings on the Scottish mainland.
NHS Shetland has welcomed the move and added that it was represented on the TAGRA subgroup by both chief executive Ralph Roberts and director of public health Sarah Taylor.
The health board said: “NHS Shetland is confident that the group will review a range of issues that impact on the additional cost of providing health services on Shetland; however, NHS Shetland also recognises that, regardless of the outcome of this review, the board will need to continue to seek significant efficiency improvements over the coming years to respond to the ongoing pressures and need to continually improve and invest in services in the future.”