PLANS for a new healthcare model in Bressay which is centred around the introduction of a clinic facility on the island have been given the go-ahead by Shetland’s health and social care partnership.
The project was given the approval by members of Shetland’s integration joint board (IJB) on Thursday.
It will see space at the old school turned into a clinic which will be able to be used by visiting health professionals, with £20,000 secured from the NHS Shetland capital projects budget to renovate the area.
There will also support for accessing consultations remotely via the Attend Anywhere video platform.
The move stems from the lack of a resident nurse on the island, a void which has been in place since July 2017.
Traditionally a nurse has been resident on Fair Isle, Foula, Fetlar, Skerries and Bressay – islands which do not have a doctor.
NHS Shetland chief nurse Edna Mary Watson told members of the IJB on Thursday that the budget for the Bressay resident nurse post will be re-invested in commuting nursing across Shetland.
The current nurses house at Voeside in Bressay will be subject to a property feasibility study to decide its future.
Watson said there had been a “rapid turnover” of staff on the island with a “lack of clarity” for the community about health services.
Among the staff likely to attend the clinic include health improvement officers, as well as other visiting health professionals.
The plans were drawn up in consultation with the Bressay Community Council.
Watson said that 54 per cent of respondents to a survey fully supported the proposals, and 44 per cent partially supported them.
She also praised the “drive” of community council chairman Alistair Christie-Henry to take things from complaints to a proper project.
The chief nurse also mentioned during the meeting that there are hopes between the ambulance and fire services to team together to create a more robust first responder scheme on Bressay.
Lerwick North councillor Stephen Leask was Shetland Islands Council’s representative on the project board and he said he was “honoured” to be involved.
He praised the involvement of Bressay Community Council and the joined-up working behind the project.
“It’s really important that what we see for the community of Bressay is a service that actually stacks up for them,” he said.
North mainland councillor Emma Macdonald backed the scheme but questioned why it it had taken two years to come to fruition.
Watson said one of the key elements was “building up a relationship with the community” over time.
Macdonald also questioned how the IJB would respond to potential questions from communities like North Roe which could be viewed as more isolated and difficult to get to than Bressay.
Watson said there is already a plan to do similar in Yell, with the community council there already engaged in discussions with health professionals.
She said it needs to be “context specific” to the area in question, but added it that it could used as a model anywhere in Shetland.
South mainland councillor Robbie McGregor, meanwhile, said he was “absolutely delighted” to see the project reach this point.
He added that he had been critical previously of the “lack of integration in the IJB” in the past, but this was a good example of working together.
IJB vice-chairman councillor Allison Duncan also remarked that it was “integration at its best”.
After he questioned about the possibility of the project being used as a blueprint for similar schemes elsewhere in Scotland, Watson said that there is already potential for sharing the information with Shapinsay in Orkney.
She added that she was not aware of any other similar projects in the Scottish islands.
NHS Shetland interim chief executive Simon Bokor-Ingram said “this is gold standard in my eyes”.
He admitted, however, that time scales were a concern in terms of similar future work.
“There’s a tension between taking time to do it properly and the pace of change that is needed,” he said.
Simon Bokor-Ingram suggested, however, that the Bressay community could offer assistance in the first instance to any other areas of Shetland which would be keen on a similar set-up.