The healthcare survey circulated recently by MSP Tavish Scott yielded 900 responses, which Mr Scott deemed a “phenomenal” result.
The survey focused on four main areas – mental health, access to GP appointments, dentistry and patient travel off the island.
Mr Scott regarded mental health as the most important topic, and 73 per cent, nearly three-quarters of respondents, thought the service was inadequate.
The problem locally seemed to be getting into the system, and there were gaps in provision. Mr Scott said: “If you can get into the service the care is good, but getting to it is a real challenge.”
He would like to ensure that a mental health professional was available in every A & E department.
Mr Scott also called for a place of safety in Shetland – sending people off the island to Cornhill was an “easy solution” but had not been shown to work.
He said: “Really serious consideration has to be given to a place of safety [in Shetland] where people could stay for a longer period of time – yes it’s expensive, yes it’s difficult but the need must be met.”
Regarding health centres, Mr Scott said the shortage of GPs was a “national issue”.
Lerwick Health Centre had had particular problems with appointments, and although the introduction of advanced nurse practitioners (ANPs) had improved matters, it had not neccesarily freed up doctors as much as was hoped. He said it could still take a week to get an appointment with a doctor, and “the system needs to be sharper.”
Only 25 per cent of survey respondents thought Shetland’s GP services had got better in the last five years, and 38 per cent said they had seen no change.
Dentistry was another area of dissatisfaction. Mr Scott said the system was “not adequate” – waiting five or seven years to be registered with a practice and then waiting months or years for a routine appointment “cannot be right”. In the survey, 38 per cent of people said the service had got “much worse” over the last five years.
Patient travel to Aberdeen was often unnecessary, according to the survey results, and Mr Scott said he would be in favour of repatriating services to Shetland wherever possible, and added: “I’d expect highly paid consultants to come here.”