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Community / Infrastructure key challenge for future of healthcare in Skerries, meeting hears

The community of 7Hans J Marter/ShetNewsApproaching Skerries on a plane. Hans J Marter/Shetland News

THE CHALLENGES of delivering health and care services in Skerries has been highlighted by NHS chiefs, with the lack of infrastructure a key barrier.

NHS Shetland’s chief nurse Edna Mary Watson and Simon Bokor-Ingram, when he was in position of interim chief executive of the health board, recently visited the island group to meet residents.

Speaking at a meeting of Shetland’s health and social care partnership the integration joint board on Thursday, Watson said a declining population  – and an ageing population – was also a big factor.

She told members that the younger population was off the island for work and there was no-one under the age of 65 in Skerries during the day. A few years ago it was thought that the permanent population was around 30-something.

“It’s very challenging that there are no young people,” Watson said, with a lack of employment opportunities driving folk away.

Skerries is served by a resident district nurse, while medical cover is provided by the Whalsay Health Centre.

A report presented to members of the IJB said the infrastructure challenges will “impact on future sustainability of services”.

Poor broadband provision was one aspect of infrastructure that continues to prove a challenge, with the Attend Anywhere virtual clinic system – which has been a success in areas like Unst – unable to take off.

If that was brought to Skerries it would have to be delivered through satellite broadband, which would have to be limited to the nurse’s house.

Bokor-Ingram said he believed the local community were grateful for the visit.

“It was a very high quality conversation,” he said.

“I think we left with a more deeper understanding of some of the challenges.”