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Health / NHS struggling to recruit to Skerries nursing post

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

ATTEMPTS to recruit a new nurse for the island community of Skerries have seemingly reached a dead end after the post was advertised three times without success.

Work will now be undertaken to develop a different ‘caretaker’ model for the island, which is said to have a resident population of around 30.

The nursing post was developed as part of a review of how care is provided in non-doctor island communities.

This came after the retirement and resignation of nurses last year in three of Shetland’s four non-doctor islands – Skerries, Fair Isle and Fetlar.

The fourth non-doctor island Foula has a resident nurse in post, although the local community has taken part in the project.

An update on the nursing project will be given at a meeting of Shetland’s health and care partnership next week.

Whilst Skerries has proved difficult, recruitment to the service models for Fetlar and Fair Isle has been successful, and it is anticipated the positions will be filled in December.

Temporary cover arrangements remain in place for Fair Isle and Fetlar whilst the recruitment process concludes, and in Skerries a bank staff member is providing a service.

The Skerries residential nurse vacancy worked on a model of a five day working pattern of Thursday to Monday to reflect the increased population at weekends.

In addition to providing nursing care, the postholder was also expected to provide personal care for islanders as required.

But as the recruitment has been unsuccessful a new ‘caretaker’ model is being explored which would see the “employment of a person/couple to undertake a broad range of tasks” needed on the island.

This post would be at an assistant practitioner band four level, which is less than the band six initially proposed for the Skerries nurse, and the postholder would be taught healthcare skills.

These skills could “support the delivery of routine healthcare for individuals with known issues, treatment plans being directed, and overseen, by registered professionals on either a visiting service basis or via technology depending upon the broadband infrastructure”.

The only way to get to Skerries at the moment is by ferry; it takes 90 minutes from Vidlin/Laxo or two and a half hours via the less regular Lerwick service.

It is the most easterly point of Shetland.

Traditionally a resident nurse has been the first point of contact for all healthcare needs on the islands on a 24/7 basis.

Before the pandemic there were also visiting services in addition to the resident nurse.