The chief executive of NHS Shetland Sandra Laurenson is to step down at the end of the year, it was announced yesterday.
Ms Laurenson, 50, has held the post for nearly 10 years and has been involved in health care all her working life.
Her decision to take early retirement from the job she loves has come about through a combination of circumstances at home and work, she said.
Domestic commitments – looking after her elderly mother – coupled with changes at work made her feel the “time was right” to go.
She said: “The health service is entering a new era in clinical strategy. I will see that to near completion then hand over the reins. I’m here to the end of the year then I’ll take time to consider my options, I’ll see how much time I have left after [carrying out] my responsibilities at home.”
Ms Laurenson, a native of North Roe and former pupil of Anderson High School, started her career as a student nurse in 1977. She did her nursing training in Aberdeen, becoming a staff nurse and then ward sister in the city.
On returning home in 1985 she worked for NHS Shetland, initially as a ward sister in Montfield Hospital, then as sister in the Gilbert Bain Hospital before being made senior nurse in charge of Montfield in 1990.
Rapid promotion saw her appointed as the board’s first quality co-ordinator in 1992 and subsequently senior nurse at the Gilbert Bain, becoming a board director in 1995 and deputy chief executive in 1999.
She took over the top job from Brian Atherton in April 2001, the first chief executive of NHS Shetland to have been a nurse – chief executives often come from the worlds of management or finance.
Ms Laurenson said at the time the special challenge would be Shetland’s “remoteness”, making it especially important to recruit and retain high quality staff.
She is going to take early retirement at no additional cost to the board or NHS.
Now that the decision has been made she said: “I’ll miss everything. I’ll miss the whole organisation, board members and staff. Although I don’t see patients as much as I did when I was in a clinical role, my absolute focus has been on patient care.
“When something has not gone as well as it should I’ve been very vexed – it’s important folk get what they need from the health service and if it hasn’t worked for them I’ve always been concerned about it.”
She paid tribute to her staff and fellow board members: “It has been a privilege to do this job and I have been fortunate to work with so many excellent staff and board members over the years, all committed to the very best health services for the people of Shetland.”
In return Ms Laurenson’s colleagues expressed their high respect for her.
Paying tribute, board chairman Mr Ian Kinniburgh said he was “sad and disappointed” to hear of the imminent departure.
“Sandra has been the single most important factor over the years that has led to NHS Shetland consistently performing very very well.
“She is and always has been a tremendous asset to NHS Shetland and the local community and has been the main driving force behind our excellent performance as an organisation. Her dedication to the job and to the interests of the people of Shetland coupled with her knowledge, skills and commitment will be very difficult to replace. It is therefore with great reluctance and regret that I have accepted her request to step down as chief executive at the end of the year.”