New ways of delivering healthcare in remote, rural areas are to be tested in the north of Scotland in recognition of ongoing problems with recruiting nurses and other staff, ministers have announced.
The health board NHS Highland will be given £1.5m to explore approaches to building sustainable health and care services, in collaboration with local communities.
Public health minister Michael Matheson said: “It has become increasingly difficult to recruit and retain health and care professionals to the traditional models of providing healthcare in remote areas.
“This scheme will play a vital role in helping to develop long term solutions that meet the healthcare needs of rural communities.”
One model being developed in Campbeltown involves the community hospital and three local GP practices providing 24/7 care, as well as an enhanced Scottish Ambulance Service response to support the service.
In addition to the model being developed and tested in Argyll, there are three further initial areas where new approaches are being developed across NHS Highland.
In West Lochaber, GP practices based in Mallaig, Acharacle and the Small Isles are in discussions to set up a multi-practice model for the provision of primary care, including out of hours. This would enable several practices to work together with the wider health and care team.
On the isle of Islay, the three existing GP practices are working to put in place a new service to enable a more stable and sustainable healthcare service for residents centred around the community hospital and care home.
In Mid Argyll the plan is to implement a similar arrangement to Campbeltown but also looking at options for a multi-practice model.
The models developed by NHS Highland will be evaluated to test their effectiveness, with recommendations being used to develop similar healthcare models across Scotland.
NHS Highland chair Garry Coutts said: “This funding will allow GPs, Nurses, SAS and rural communities to explore and shape alternative service models to meet local health need within the context of providing safe and sustainable services.”
Theresa Fyffe, director of the Royal College of Nursing Scotland, said: “This announcement is an important first step and provides a real opportunity for nurses, as well as GPs, to deliver innovative and accessible health care services that meet the needs of rural communities.
“I look forward to working with NHS Highland to ensure that the valuable role that nurses have in providing health services, such as those by advanced nurse practitioners, is utilised to its fullest potential for all those living in remote and rural areas,” she said.
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