THE NEW chairman of Shetland Health Board Gary Robinson has defended the organisation charged with integrating health and social care services in the isles, after it was branded an “unnecessary bureaucracy” by his predecessor.
Robinson, who took up the reins at the health board on Wednesday and will chair his first meeting later this month, said that Integration Joint Board (IJB) was a success given that it had been one of the last such organisations to bet set up nationally.
He said that after a painful birth for the IJB, the last thing needed was the distraction of rebuilding that organisation.
Robinson said: “We are at a point where the IJB is bedding in quite well and why would we want to rip that up and start something new? It is not the time for it and I could fail to see what benefit it would have and ultimately what benefit we could deliver to the community.”
He said that delivering integration had been hugely time consuming, took up a lot of resources and was a real distraction “from getting on with the day job”.
Former NHS Shetland chairman Ian Kinniburgh, who was in the job since 2009, said that the IJB had basically not worked.
Robinson added: “I don’t think it has been a failure, I think that the IJB we have here in Shetland is working as well as any in Scotland – arguably better.
“The plan, as I well remember, was first rejected by the council and that led to further delay. I think Shetland was the last area to implement health and social care integration.
“It was a long and difficult process to get here. Personally I have no desire to revisit it. At this time it would be a distraction from what we really need to be doing – that is getting on with the day job and delivering the best services we can for the community in Shetland.”
He said that despite the delays with the formal structure Shetland had been ahead of the game with some elements of working between organisations.
He added: “I think the thing in Shetland that stood in our favour from the start is that health and social care integration really started in the 90s and we have had health board staff and council staff working together.
“The last hurdle, as it were, and certainly the most difficult hurdle, was just the last bit tying up the organisational structure that would ultimately support that service integration.
He also said closer working between the health services in Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles was a very welcome idea, but was completely unaware of any plans to merge northern health boards.
He added: “We have certainly been given the opportunity here to explore how we might deliver services more effectively and more efficiently in the islands. I think that’s been reinforced more recently with the passage of the islands bill.
“It would be very remiss of us not to take that opportunity and explore with our local and national partners what shape that might take.”
Most important of all was consultation with staff to understand what needed to be done to improve service delivery. This was far more crucial than tinkering with management structures for the services.
Robinson added: “One of the things that is high on the agenda now is the MRI scanner. If we are able to deliver that, that offers opportunities to do more locally than we do currently and potentially reduce the amount of folk that have to go to Aberdeen for that procedure.
“There is the financial cost of sending folk to Aberdeen and the benefit to the patient of not having to go to Aberdeen for that procedure. I think that really is a big bonus not just for the health board but for the patient.”