Minister praises NHS Shetland but issues warnings on health centre and dentistry

NHS Shetland is performing well and compares “very favourably” to other boards in Scotland, according to the country’s health minister Michael Matheson, who was in the isles today.

Mr Matheson, who attended the board’s annual review and met staff and patients, said the level of patient satisfaction was one of the highest of any board in the country. He said: “This is to the credit of staff and means they are working extremely hard and providing a good standard of care.”

However he pointed out two particular challenges which he has asked the board to look at – access to GP services, including the ability to make advance appointments, especially at Lerwick Health Centre, and the access to NHS dentistry. Regarding the latter he said: “There is clearly more work to be done and that is due to come before the board shortly. I have asked them to keep us informed. It’s important to increase access.”

The dental strategy was originally due be presented to the board in April.

In other areas, such as tackling smoking and excessive alcohol use health board was doing “extremely well” – now this good practice has to be embedded by GPs and other health professionals.

Shetland has specific problems due to a dispersed population, he said, and this makes it challenging to have a medical workforce that is both sustainable and clinically safe. The isles also have the problem common to health boards throughout Scotland of an ageing population. The minister said: “The health service needs to meet that demand against a challenging financial backdrop.”

NHS Shetland is achieving its target in diagnosing dementia early, he said, and working “very hard” to support not just the individual but the family. Throughout the country 300 dementia champions are being trained – Shetland already has some in post and is making “good progress”.

Shetland is also performing well in the target of 62 days for cancer treatment is met. Mr Matheson said: “NHS Shetland has made progress in ensuring that individuals that present with symptoms are seen as early as possible.”

Mental health, especially for children and young people, is another area in which significant progress has been made. Mr Matheson said he expects the board to continue this. He said: “In the past there were delays to get access to psychological therapies. We have already had reductions in waiting times and will continue to make improvements.”


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