Holding on to quality health staff

Pictured are speakers from Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Scotland and Sweden, at the opening conference in An Lanntair, Stornoway.
Pictured are speakers from Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Scotland and Sweden, at the opening conference in An Lanntair, Stornoway.

SEVENTY delegates from Greenland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden joined NHS Western Isles staff and representatives from other parts of Scotland this month, for a series of workshops to discuss strategies for recruiting and retaining health care workers in remote rural areas.

NHS Western Isles, as the Lead Partner for the Northern Periphery Programme (NPP) project Recruit and Retain (Recruitment and Retention of Health Care Workers in Remote Rural Areas), hosted the first workshop of the project in Stornoway from October 10th - 12th.

Sandwiched between two days of project work, a conference entitled ‘Strategies for Recruiting and Retaining Health Care Workers in Remote Rural Areas’ was held in An Lanntair in Stornoway.

Project Director, Andrew Sim, described the workings of the Northern Periphery Programme and gave details of the Recruit and Retain project.

Professor Sim explained: “The International setting was illustrated by presentations from Jim Buchan from Queen Margaret’s University in Edinburgh and Roger Strasser of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. Professor Buchan, representing the World Health Organisation (WHO), summarised the work of the recently completed WHO project on ‘Increasing Access to Health Workers in Remote and Rural Areas through Improved Retention’. He indicated how this work dovetailed with the objectives and work packages of the Recruit and Retain project. Professor Strasser used his immense experience of remote and rural health care in Australia and Canada to illustrate the problems of attracting health workers to remote rural areas and he explained how the establishment of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine was training doctors with the necessary skills to work in the more isolated areas of Northern Canada.”

The Scottish situation was described in four talks delivered by Stephen Hutchison, Consultant Physician in Palliative Medicine, on the work of the University of Aberdeen’s undergraduate medical student remote and rural option; by Gillian Needham, Regional Postgraduate Medical Dean of the North of Scotland Deanery, on the work NHS Education for Scotland (NES) is doing in postgraduate medical training for rural areas; by Pam Nicol, Programme Director of the Remote and Rural Healthcare Educational Alliance (RRHEAL) on the way RRHEAL is providing education and training programmes for health care workers in rural areas; and finally by David Green, Principal of Lews Castle College, University of Highlands and Islands (UHI), on how UHI is working to provide educational opportunities for people living in remote rural areas and how this incorporates courses needed for remote and rural health care.

The Western Isles setting was portrayed by presentations on the challenges of healthcare recruitment in the Western Isles by Gordon Jamieson, NHS Western Isles Chief Executive, on the nursing perspective by Annetta Smith, Associate Head of School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health at the Western Isles Campus of Stirling University, and on the recruitment and retention of dental professionals in remote rural areas by John Lyon, Chief Administrative Dental Officer for NHS Western Isles.

The conference was brought to a conclusion by a discussion facilitated by Jim Ward, Medical Director of NHS Western Isles, on the topics the Recruit and Retention project should focus on over the next two years.