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NHS prepares for the future

NHS Shetland chief executive Ralph Roberts: 'exploring ideas and imagining what change might look like'. Photo: Shetland News

NHS Shetland is embarking on a three-month scenario planning exercise in a bid to get a clearer idea of what the local health and care sector may look like in years to come.

 With financial and demographic pressures on the health service nationally and locally, the health board said the service was at a “critical point”.

Around 50 health and care professionals but also councillors, and representatives from the voluntary sector and patient groups have been invited for a first of three such meeting this Wednesday.

They will listen to a number of examples of what has been done elsewhere including a case study on the changes made to the Canterbury District health board in New Zealand.

Listing the challenges, NHS Shetland boss Ralph Roberts said they were “significant” and not just about money:

  • The impact of both the growing elderly and the shrinking working age populations;
  • Difficulties in recruiting to certain posts;
  • An ageing workforce;
  • People with more complex health needs;
  • The cost of innovations in treatment and the cost of new drugs;
  • A persistent (and possibly worsening) inequality gap, and
  • Less funding for the public sector.

Roberts said: “What we are doing over the next three months is working with our staff, and partners in organisations like the council and the voluntary sector to look at what we think the long term future for our services are, so that we can continue to provide really good services for the Shetland community but in a way that reflects and recognises the issues that we face.”

He said that health boards had endured ten years of austerity with funding settlements well below what is rqeuired to keep pace with patients’ needs, and added that the challenges were more complex that just financial.

“It is important to emphasise that this is not about money on its own –I would recognise that finance is an important aspect of it, but it also is about our workforce and about innovation and new technologies and the aging population,” he said.

NHS Shetland is required to make three per cent efficiency savings from its £55million budget every year.

Meanwhile, funding has for the last ten years grown by a mere one per cent per annum, on average, whereas it is recognised that NHS boards need annual budget increases of at least four per cent to allow board to adjust to ever changing requirements.

Roberts said no decisions would be made during the scenario planning sessions.

“I am looking forward to hearing people’s ideas and thinking about how we respond to the future needs of our communities,” he said. “We need time to explore ideas and imagine what change might look like.

“However I would emphasise that no formal decisions will be made during the scenario planning days.

“Any ideas and options identified as part of this work will be worked up in partnership with staff, service users and our communities in the normal way before any decisions are made.”