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Health boards to share resources in face of challenges

By Emma Crichton

Michael Foxley
Michael Foxley

WORKING together and sharing resources between health boards in the north is the best way to address "unprecedented challenges".

A regional delivery plan for the north of Scotland will see health authorities in Highland, Grampian, Tayside, Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles form a partnership, members of the Highland board have been told.

The plans are being led by NHS Grampian chief executive Malcolm Wright who said working together could improve recruitment across the board, particularly in radiology which is facing a staff crisis, as well as save money.

"We are facing unprecedented challenges in health and social care in Scotland around population needs and expectation, the workforce challenges we have and the sustainability of key services such as radiology which has been a huge issue in Highland and indeed across Scotland," he said.

"In the financial context the pressures that are building, not just in this board but others, are pretty severe.

"It’s about service, workforce and financial sustainability and looking at things we could do working together to make that better.

"Can we work together to do things that we wouldn’t be able to do otherwise?"

The model will be rolled out across Scotland in east, west and north regions and because of its relative closeness to Glasgow the Argyll and Bute area will be included in the west region despite being formally part of the NHS Highland catchment.

Mr Wright added that strengthening the biggest hospitals in the north, including Raigmore, will help improve services and recruitment in rural general hospitals as well as preventing patients from having to travel to the central belt for treatment.

"This is not about controlling agencies, it’s about encouraging them to work together," he said.

"We want to support the island hospitals and rural general hospitals but to do that we need stronger big hospitals and we need them working together.

"With even more challenging times ahead we are absolutely going to need to share our infrastructure across the six health boards in the north."

While the board unanimously welcomed the proposals, which will now be subject to public and staff consultation, director Michael Foxley raised concerns about Tayside being included in the north board as some Highland services, including the fire service control room, have already been centralised to Dundee.

"To my mind Dundee is part of the central belt and there have already been issues with emergency service control rooms being in Dundee which people claim to be in the north, but it’s not," he said.

A final plan is due to be submitted to the Scottish Government at the end of March.

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