The amalgamation of health and community care services under a unified management structure will pay dividends in the face of declining budgets, officials have insisted.
Health service bosses outlined the benefits of the changes, made necessary by the Health and Social Care Act, at a meeting of the Association of Shetland Community Councils yesterday.
“The idea is not an additional tier of bureaucracy, but will replace existing structures,” director of public health Sarah Taylor told community councillors.
“We are trying to shift care into the community,” she added, and said that there would be a growing emphasis on early intervention and helping people manage long term conditions.
The health board and council have opted to set up an Integration Joint Board which has “responsibility for planning and resourcing health provision for adult health and social care services”.
As part of new regulations, each health board area must have a minimum of two “localities”, meaning Shetland will be split, at least nominally, into two for “service planning and delivery”.
The project is intended to avoid duplication of effort and drive out inefficiencies. It will also focus on preventing unnecessary hospital admissions and the sharing of buildings between health board and social services staff wherever possible.
Director of community health and social care Simon Bokor-Ingram said the key issue was how to raise and maintain standards.This meant having sufficient care capacity while providing services efficiently.
Some integrated services have already been rolled out or are being developed in Yell, Unst, Northmavine and Lerwick and the plan is to bring the reorganisation to the whole of Shetland.