Last week’s Stornoway Gazette highlighted the concept of a ‘Single Island Authority’ for the Western Isles, with the main public bodies, combined into one entity.
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Councillors recently agreed to take forward discussion on the possibility.
This week we feature the concept from NHS Western Isles point of view.
The health authority said it was “aware of but has not had any discussion or involvement regarding the concept, or the council’s aspiration, to create a Single Island Authority”.
It confirmed the Comhairle had been in touch early in February, seeking a meeting with members of the Health Board “to outline the benefits” that it perceives would arise from establishing new governance arrangements of this kind.
Gordon Jamieson, Chief Executive of NHS Western Isles, gave the health board’s current position.
“The Health Board recognises the imperative around developing our Island community and doing what we can to enhance and develop our economic wellbeing, while ensuring that high quality health services continue to be provided to and available to all of our communities and that, as partners, we maximise the joint provision of services where appropriate and possible.
“We noted in the Programme for Government that the Scottish Government would support proposals for a single body subject to a number of conditions being met.
“The concept of a single public authority or single island authority is not something the Health Board has been involved in to date and therefore has not aligned itself to.
“We all strive to make our organisations more joined up, share services where we can, drive efficiency without sacrifice to quality and make our islands an excellent place to visit, work and stay. The IJB (Integration Joint Board) is evidence of that positive collaboration.
“We would welcome the opportunity to consider the possibilities for improved service provision, maximising the use of resources, enabling sustainable recruitment and retention and safeguarding all of our island communities.
“This would involve the co-production of the case for change, setting out details of the rationale for and extent of any change.
“We would see the first stage of this work as starting with a scoping exercise locally. An element of the work would cover how any new proposal would dovetail with ‘Once for Scotland’ and regional and national services.
“Exploring different governance arrangements would seem to me to logically follow, were there to be agreement on any system change, rather than precede it.
“As you will know, the Health & Sport Committee is in the middle of an inquiry into NHS governance across Scotland.
“Whilst the Health Board exists in its current form with the associated legislative framework it is difficult to conceive a discussion on any change of governance that would break new ground, in advance of what I have outlined above.
“Any discussions or actions that I have outlined above would be in the first instance with myself, as Chief Executive and the CMT and ICMT prior to any wider Board involvement and/or discussion.
“Whilst we do, and would always respect the views and proposals put forward by the council, such proposals do not commit the Health Board.”