Joint care committee opposed by councillors has to happen: NHS chairman

The proposed creation of an integrated health and social care board “has to happen”, according to NHS Shetland chairman Ian Kinniburgh.

Councillors earlier this month voted against the proposal for a “health and social care partnership committee” composed of seven councillors and seven NHS board members, plus other non-voting members because of fears it would reduce the level of democratic control.

However, NHS Shetland board members at their meeting today unanimously supported setting up the committee and Mr Kinniburgh insisted it was “too good an opportunity to miss”.

The committee would take responsibility for areas previously dealt with separately by SIC and NHS, such as adult social work, criminal justice, mental health, dental services, and various medical and nursing services.

The Scottish government is considering a bill requiring all local authorities to set up such partnerships. Until that bill is enacted in April 2015, the new committee would act as a “shadow” committee.

But councillors treated the proposal with a great deal of suspicion and voted against it earlier this month. Although they had no objection in principle to closer ties with NHS, they felt the fact that the NHS contingent was not elected by the Shetland public would mean democracy would be undermined. To establish anything so far ahead of April 2015 would be “jumping the gun”, according to councillor Billy Fox.

NHS chief executive Ralph Roberts said he did not accept things were moving too fast as joint working had been going on for a decade, for example in the care centres. “People need to understand we’re moving forward on this,” he said.

Mr Kinniburgh said establishing the joint committee would be a “real opportunity to make a difference” and the shadow committee would be a way of learning to work together.

There was a need to make SIC more familiar with the workings of NHS, he said, to strengthen the relationship between the organisations. He said: “We’re absolutely committed to making joint working work, we’ve been leading the way in Scotland for nearly 10 years.”

NHS board member, Cecil Smith, who is also SIC social services chairman, said he was “disappointed” at the SIC’s decision. He said the members had not seen written evidence of the benefits of setting up the committee, but “we’ve got to keep going and make it work”.

NHS board member Keith Massey spoke of his “extreme disappointment” over the council’s vote, as Shetland had always been a “shining example” of joint working over the last decade.

He added that there could be duplication and waste if the services did not work together.

Member Malcolm Bell, who is also SIC convener, said: “There is a history of joint working in Shetland, it’s clearly the direction of travel in Scotland, it’s going to happen, it’s as simple as that. The customer doesn’t care if it’s the council or the health board delivering services.”

He said that the council had not actually rejected the idea of integration but had been concerned about the “different cultures” working together.

It had been “a bit of a blip”, but he said, “we will move forward.”

He added: “We are still up there with the best of them [in Scotland] on service delivery.”

Director of public health Sarah Taylor said the council’s stance was “not a major setback” and the health board was working to iron out some of the “challenges”.

Mr Smith agreed the council’s vote was a “minor blip”. He said: “It’s not the end of the journey. We will continue to work together, we have to work together.”

Recruiting for the joint post of head of community care would be a “huge opportunity to make sure this works”, he added.


Add Your Comment
  • John Tulloch

    • June 25th, 2013 23:20

    No, Mr Kinniburgh, it doesn’t HAVE to happen and if it does happen it should NOT lead to loss of democratic control nor ultimately, to the creation of an expanded NHS Shetland empire.

    Shetlanders have lost democratic control of the charitable trust whose unelected majority of trustees is heavily laced with “appointed” NHS Shetland board members including you. That is already incestuous and will be all the more so if democratic control of the care services, a main beneficiary of the trust, is lost to NHS Shetland.

    Unification of these services will be a fine idea when an autonomous Shetland has full democratic control over all of it – and not before!

    Meanwhile SIC councillors will be wise to “beware of Greeks bearing gifts”.

  • paul barlow

    • June 26th, 2013 9:55


    the reason behind these changes are to provide a better service for the service user. Having two organizations providing the care is less than ideal. it slows the service. and leads to errors of care.

    its not empire building on behalf of the health board its just what needs doing. just as the council has issues so does the health board staff with joint working.

    change is uncomfortable for all concerned however sometimes change is needed. the rest is just politics which helps no one.

  • John Tulloch

    • June 26th, 2013 11:37


    I’m not against appropriate change however I am in favour of retaining democratic control and not passing it to unelected government mandarins.

    That is why I favour autonomy for Shetland, precisely so that joined up thinking can be applied locally without relinquishing existing democratic control to Edinburgh.

    Control of local affairs should be devolved to local authorities and when we have that all things can be considered.

    I have some experience of dealing with both these services and as a “customer” I would very much prefer to deal with the council social work department than with the NHS whose production line culture is poorly-equipped to deal with issues like, for example, communication with relatives of elderly patients.

  • Stewart Mac

    • June 26th, 2013 12:30

    Here here John, wholeheartedly agree


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