NHS Shetland bosses are hoping that a new documentary TV series which will showcase the isles’ emergency and healthcare staff will encourage more people to apply for jobs.
The health board currently has long-held GP vacancies in Lerwick, Yell, Unst, Bixter and Walls and it is set to shell out £1.3 million this financial year on temporary locums to keep services running if current spending is maintained.
At NHS Shetland’s latest board meeting on Tuesday, officials highlighted a focus on offering a “flexible” recruitment policy which would give potential employees choices on the sort of job they want, taking into account things like location and working hours.
This will be particularly relevant to Westside healthcare, with the board agreeing to maintain locum-covered surgeries in Walls and Bixter for the time being and continue attempts to recruit salaried workers, despite the recommended option being to merge them.
One other way the health board hopes its recruitment crisis could receive a much-needed shot in the arm is through a BBC documentary series which has been filming in Shetland for the last number of months.
The ten-part series, which is expected to air early next year, has been documenting how services such as the NHS, ambulance and the coastguard work in tandem in the isles.
It has filmed in the Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick as well as outlying health centres, and NHS Shetland chief executive Ralph Roberts hopes that it could encourage more applicants to put themselves forward for its vacancies.
“I think we feel, and I think the BBC do as well, that there’s a really interesting story to tell about what it is like to be a healthcare practitioner working somewhere like Shetland,” he said.
“We were keen to do it on the basis that we wanted to showcase the really good work that goes on in Shetland. It would be a more than nice spin-off if that actually made people go ‘I can see why that’d be a good place to live, I can see why that would be a good place to work’- something which they might not have otherwise thought about.
“So hopefully it is an opportunity for the good work and the good lifestyle and the opportunities to be showcased in a broader way.”
Roberts raised the popular BBC drama series Shetland and its positive impact on tourism and suggested there could a similar effect on healthcare recruitment.
The chief executive, meanwhile, reiterated that he hopes to have more GP cover at the Brae Health Centre in the future after the health board put more reliance on advanced nurse practitioners (ANPs).
“We have put some ANP time into Brae but we would certainly also still want to put some more GP time into Brae as well,” Roberts said.
NHS Shetland has now merged GP vacancies into one listing on its website as it continues to promote flexible recruitment.
“We’ve always advertised flexibly in as far as saying that we’re happy to take people who might interested in a salaried job, or running it as an independent GP,” Roberts said.
“I suppose in the past we’ve advertised jobs as ‘this is the job for Unst or this is the job for Yell or Bixter’. What we’ll be doing more is saying that we are looking for GPs to come and work in Shetland – we’ve got vacancies working out of a number of health centres, come and have a conversation with us about the sort of job you want, and then we’ll then try and jointly create a job that fits what an individual’s aspirations are, but also allows us to sustain a service.
“So people might want to come and say well actually I’d quite like to work out in somewhere like Walls or Bixter for two or three days a week, but I’d also like to do some work in the out of hours service, or working in a sub-speciality interest in the hospital. We’d then try and design the job around them.”