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Health / ‘Care in Shetland is not broken’ – more worry at national service proposal

WORRIES have been raised that Shetland could potentially experience a “levelling down” in the quality of care provided locally if a new national service is introduced.

NHS Shetland vice-chairman Malcolm Bell said the quality of social care in the isles at the moment is already very high – and he does not want standards to drop.

It comes amid a drive from the Scottish Government to introduce a national care service.

A consultation is open on the plans and people in Shetland have previously been encouraged to share their views.

The plans have drawn some significant concern in Shetland, where care services are largely delivered through the council.

Critics say the proposals are in effect an attempt to strip local authorities of powers, and could, in the case of Shetland, lead to a deterioration of the service.

Speaking at a meeting of the Shetland health board on Tuesday, Bell said he had a real concern over what impact a national organisation could have on services.

“In Shetland we enjoy a very high standard of care and that is down to the way the council and health board work together through the IJB and also to the extra investment the council and charitable trust are able to make through drawing on our reserves,” he added after the meeting.

Malcolm Bell. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

“Our staff, in both health and social care, can be proud of the service they deliver.

“Care in Shetland is not broken but in some other parts of Scotland it probably does not meet the standards we consistently deliver here.

“This is not a result of a failure of governance but of a lack of investment.”

Bell, who is also the convener of Shetland Islands Council, also warned against a “HIAL” form of governance.

HIAL – Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd – is Scottish Government owned agency which operates airports across the region.

It has come under fire recently for plans to centralise air traffic control in Inverness.

“There is a lot in the Feeley report [into adult social care in Scotland] which is positive, but we really do not want to see a form of ‘HIAL’ governance model to deliver health and care services in Shetland,” Bell said.

“That would be bad for local accountability and most importantly bad for those who depend on our services.”

The Scottish Government’s consultation documents say that the impact on island communities will be explored, and it will “carry out a suite of impact assessments before finalising the proposals”.

The review into adult social care identified a “lack of national accountability and leadership for social care support”.

“While there is good practice in many places, there is no mechanism for making sure this spreads across the country,” the consultation papers said.

Minister for mental wellbeing and social care Kevin Stewart said: “A National Care Service will provide us with consistency, equity and fairness, and the accountability needed to deliver high quality services across Scotland.”

The SNP’s manifesto for the May election said a national service would not mean all care homes will be owned or run by the Scottish Government.