THE LACK of suitable accommodation in Shetland for incoming health workers is proving a significant problem for NHS Shetland, a meeting heard on Tuesday.
Chief executive Michael Dickson confirmed the health board is “looking at various options” to tackle the issue.
The matter was brought up at a meeting of the health board on Tuesday during a discussion about finances around the costs of temporary locum staff.
The idea of “hidden costs” relating to transport and accommodation for incoming staff was raised, which adds to the health board’s bill.
It comes amid a busy property and rental market which is seeing less houses coming available in addition to high prices, which is also affecting local people who are struggling to buy.
A number of people moving north to Shetland for work have been taking to local Facebook groups in recent months to seek accommodation, but many do not find a quick result.
Dickson said the community has been “phenomenal” in helping the health board when it comes to accommodation, but that can only go so far.
“We are somewhat constrained by a range of factors, and it’s not something the health board can immediately fix ourselves,” he said.
Dickson said Shetland Islands Council is also affected.
Board chairman Gary Robinson said the issue is something NHS Shetland is raising with the Scottish Government.
He suggested that amid plans for a possible replacement Gilbert Bain Hospital there could be potential for “recycling” the existing building.
Board member Lincoln Carroll, meanwhile, said the lack of accommodation was proving to be a “huge” problem.
He did, however, say there are empty buildings in Shetland at the moment which are not being used for either commercial or domestic purposes.
Carroll added that with construction of the Viking Energy wind farm ramping up in the next year or two, the accommodation issue will “get much worse before it gets better”.
But Robinson noted that workforce demand for these type of projects is well-known, with Highlands and Islands Enterprise previously overseeing a study on the matter.
Meanwhile there were suggestions from board members that temporary locum staff – which are vital in ensuring services continue running – should be not be deemed an overspend but rather as part of normal budgeting.
NHS Shetland regularly reports locum costs as an overspend in its financial updates.
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