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NHS gets new head of mental health

Choose Life coordinator Karen Smith has been named NHS Shetland's new head of mental health.

SUICIDE prevention worker Karen Smith has taken up the role of NHS Shetland’s head of mental health.

Smith has worked as the health board’s Choose Life coordinator as well as its alcohol and drugs development officer.

She accepted the offer of a 12-month secondment after NHS Shetland failed to recruit to the post.

The job, which was advertised as a secondment opportunity across the health board and Shetland Islands Council, works across health and social care and also links into voluntary groups.

NHS Shetland – which has been criticised in the last number of years for its mental health service – said that Smith has “extensive experience of service management, redesign, commissioning and development”.

Director of community health and social care Simon Bokor-Ingram said Smith would bring “first-hand” experience to the role.

Smith told Shetland News in March that there had not been a single suicide in the isles in 18 months after she oversaw the roll out of training across the community.

She said there are a “really dedicated team of people” working in the mental health sector in Shetland, but she said there is a “real issue” with recruitment and retention of staff in the isles.

“I’ve been in Shetland for 15 years, and I started off as manager of the youth information service. For the last ten years I’ve been the alcohol and drug development officer and Choose Life coordinator,” Smith said.

“I was based in here for a year, so I kind of got to see some of the operational stuff from the mental health team, but the head of service is much wider than just the mental health team because it’s health and social care, so it’s across both the NHS and the SIC.”

“I am delighted to welcome Karen to this post, and that she brings with her a wealth of knowledge and experience will help us to develop the mental health service in a wider sense across Shetland, working with other statutory agencies and third sector and community partners,” Bokor-Ingram added.

“Karen has first-hand perspectives from the community with the work she has been doing particularly for Choose Life, travelling around the isles and talking to residents about their mental health.”