Two new consultant posts are to be created at the Gilbert Bain Hospital to improve services and relieve pressure on staff.
The new appointments, approved on Tuesday by the NHS Shetland board, are for a consultant physician and a consultant anaesthetist, to work alongside surgeons.
NHS Shetland chief executive Ralph Roberts called the move the “most significant” to be made in his three years at the board.
Advertising for the posts will now start, and it is expected that the two consultants could be recruited within six months.
Until now the hospital has had three teams of three staff comprising a surgeon, consultant physician and consultant anaesthetist. But holidays and sick leave led to gaps in service, and, coupled with the demands of out of hours work, meant it was hard to comply with the European working time directive.
Mr Roberts said the new appointments were a “big decision”. He said: “It’s about trying to make services more sustainable. Over the last couple of years there have been gaps in services and the pressure on existing staff was huge, with their commitment of being on call.
“We’re investing in the future. It’s important to make jobs have as good a work-life balance as possible to attract people.”
Chairman of the board Ian Kinniburgh said the present model was “not sustainable” and relied heavily on the clinicians’ “goodwill”. This made it a less attractive job for recruitment purposes.
He added: “It’s not cheap but we have to afford it if we want to have a hospital that’s fit for purpose.”
An additional benefit could possibly be that the consultant physician might have a specialism that could mean that people would not have to go to Aberdeen.