Community / National care initiative would not ‘disrupt’ Shetland services, cabinet secretary says

Health and social care secretary Humza Yousaf pictured in Lerwick in August 2022. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

SCOTTISH health and social care secretary Humza Yousaf says he will look to address concerns in Shetland over a proposed national care system.

He also stressed that under a national care system services in Shetland will still be “very much locally designed and locally delivered”.

There is significant concern in Shetland about the Scottish Government’s plans to bring the country’s care system under one framework, including from the council and integration joint board, which covers health and social care.

SIC sends out clear message on care service plans

The feeling is that a one sized fits all approach will not work. In Shetland services are largely delivered by the council, whereas on the mainland some private companies are involved, and there is said to be a high standard of care.

The government says a national service would harmonise and improve standards across the country, making Scottish ministers accountable for social care services.


Speaking during a visit to Shetland this week, Yousaf said there already is an “excellent model of social care” in the isles.

“So what I don’t want to do, and what we don’t envisage doing, with the national care service is disrupting what is a very good model that is clearly working,” he said.

“But what we want to do is to work really in collaboration with the council, with the health board, with the integration authority and say look, how do we work within a national framework of the national care service, so that’s about making sure there’s minimum standards, pay, terms conditions etcetera.

”How do we work within that national framework with accountability, rightly to national accountability – how do we work within that framework, but make sure that there is a national care service that is locally designed, and locally delivered by Shetland.

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“I’m not going to come here with size tens and just disrupt and derail all the great integration that you very clearly have here in Shetland.”

When asked if the funds and resources that will go into a national care service is better put directly towards integration joint boards, the minister said a big issue is the so-called “postcode lottery” of care.

He said there are some parts of the country that will go beyond the minimum standards required under a national care service.

“I think Shetland is a good example actually in terms of what you pay for your social care workers,” Yousaf added.

“It’s a high rate of hourly pay. Again you’ve got a locally designed service that seems to work very well for the population.

“I’m not going to attempt to disrupt that dramatically in any way shape or form. But we have to make sure we’ve got this lines of national accountability, that we’ve got a national structure there that helps to lift everybody else.


“But to put it as bluntly and as simply as I possibly can: when I talk about that postcode [lottery] of care, and my concerns about social care, Shetland is not one of those local authorities that gives me major cause for concern or major losses of sleep.”

Meanwhile recruitment difficulties remain in social care; it is one factor behind a recent admission that services were under “sustained pressure”, alongside rising demand, Covid illness and annual leave.

Yousaf said it was a national problem: “The number one issue for social care is workforce, workforce workforce right across the country.”

The minister added that under a national care service there could potentially be better prospects of career progression, which could make the posts more attractive.


And NHS Shetland chairman Gary Robinson said local recruitment is open rather than having set closing dates.

“We’ve lost a lot of European workers, particularly eastern European workers, out of the system,” he added.

“I’d say there’s probably more left now than have stayed, and that’s having an impact locally as well. It’s challenging, but it’s not something we will ever give up on.

“We will keep trying and do all in our power to get people into posts so we can offer the services.”

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