A place of safety for people suffering a mental health crisis will be built within the next financial year, it was announced in the NHS annual review.
The place of safety will be situated within the Gilbert Bain Hospital’s A&E department where 24-hour care is available.
Head of nursing and acute services Kathleen Carolan said it would be a “low stimulus” environment with one-to-one care if needed.
It would not be locked and would be a “more appropriate space” than the facility currently on the busy Ward 3, and was being created in consultation with carers and service users.
Mental health is a topic which has raised public concern recently, with medical professionals quizzed about the availability of out-of-hours services.
Head of community health and social care Simon Bokor-Ingram said that although the present service was “nine to five”, a seven-day service would be in place “shortly”.
He added that waiting time targets for psychological (talking) therapy was being met in 87 per cent of cases.
Director of public health Sarah Taylor said the recent appointment of two psychiatrists and additional community psychiatric nurses had given the service “real strength”, which had already reduced the number of people going south for treatment.
When it was mentioned that a psychologist was needed, NHS Shetland chief executive Ralph Roberts said he had to look at the “wider issues”, and although he would like to progress it if affordable, that would mean not investing in other things.
During the review NHS Shetland board chairman Ian Kinniburgh agreed that the “increasingly difficult financial situation” was an ongoing problem, although the health board had balanced its books this year.
He said: “It’s a fact of life there is no spare money … we don’t have enough at present.”
Mr Kinniburgh said the service met most of its major targets, including in waiting times, and delivered
some significant projects such as Scalloway Health Centre. However, recruitment and retention of staff remained difficult.
Lerwick Health Centre was two GPs short, Mr Roberts said, but locums were providing cover and the introduction of advanced nurse practitioners (ANPs) had helped.
He agreed that it still took too long for a patient to see a doctor of their choice, and acknowledged that continuity was important.
Speaking about the future, Mr Kinniburgh questioned whether Shetland really needed 10 health centres – they could instead be 10 “access points”.
That would not mean a reduction in service, but he added: “It won’t necessarily look it does now.”