NHS Orkney: “Really good things are happening. Let’s promote the good stuff.”

NHS Orkney was praised this week for the way it has developed the new Balfour Hospital. Jeane Freeman, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport in the Scottish Government was in Orkney on Monday 8th of April to attend the annual review of NHS Orkney. The meeting in the Saltire Room, Balfour Hospital, was open to the public although very few were in attendance with the audience mainly composed of staff and Board members.

NHS Orkney Board annual review

Jeane Freeman said that the development of the new Balfour was excellent taking into account how it feels to be a patient or a member of staff working there.

Commenting on the work that had gone into the new hospital Ian Kinniburgh, NHS Orkney Board Chairman said that it had been a ‘challenge to get it to the stage’ where it is ready to open. He also praised the staff for the ‘astonishing job’ they had done in delivering it.The project had been delivered ‘in house’ which Ian Kinniburgh felt may have accounted for a rise in staff absences due to the increased workload they had taken on. Training has been ongoing to ensure the migration to the new hospital is as ‘seemless as possible.’

Jeane Freeman also commended NHS Orkney for its creative thinking around the challenges it faces. She felt larger urban Boards could learn from the way rural and island Boards look for ways to solve the challenges they face.

The challenges for NHS Orkney were highlighted in Ian Kinniburgh’s address to the meeting.


This depends on the availability of services and not something Orkney has direct control over. 1 missed consultant visit can seriously impact performance figures with numbers being so small.

4 hour A&E waits are also affected if air transport is involved because that counts as part of the 4 hour period and the system does not take account of this.

Mental Health

This has been helped with additional funding from the Scottish Government and NHS Orkney is trying to strengthen the team.

There are also issues around:  recruitment and retention of staff, sickness absence, digital connectivity and the reliance on other health boards who also have challenges.

NHS Orkney Board annual review 2


Transport has its own challenges in Orkney and Ian Kinniburgh didn’t feel that it will ever be totally overcome. James Stockan, Leader of Orkney Islands Council, raised the issue of the industrial dispute affecting HIAL. Gerry O’Brien, Chief Executive of NHS Orkney Board told the meeting that over 40 patients had been affected in the first week of the dispute – that accounted for about half of patients. The Travel Team had been working with HIAL making alternative arrangements. There had not been any instances of patients not been able to get back although there was an offer of accommodation if the flight is closed. The industrial dispute was resulting in extra work for the travel team but as NHS Orkney uses open returns there had been no extra costs for cancelled flights. Jeane Freeman commented that she would raise the issue with Michael Matheson, Transport Secretary in the Scottish Government.

Jeane Freeman reassured the meeting about the arrangements being made on the supply of medicines and medical products with Brexit. You can read about that here: No deal Brexit Advice on Medicine Supplies

Prior to the meeting Jeane Freeman had taken the opportunity to visit Orkney’s developing forensic facilities which will be used for specialist examinations for victims of sexual assault and rape. Transforming Support for Victims of Rape & Sexual Assault This will allow examinations to take place in Orkney rather than victims having to travel to mainland Scotland.

NHS Orkney stressed that they had no complaints with the funding they receive from the Scottish Government to deliver services.

Although publicised the meeting was very poorly attended by the public. This could be because people are very happy with the service provided in Orkney or because they feel if they did attend nothing would be done about complaints. Jeane Freeman gave several assurances that matters raised would be dealt with including how information is presented to the public.

In her closing message  Jeane Freeman said of NHS Orkney:

“Really good things are happening. Let’s promote the good stuff.”

Reporters: Fiona Grahame and Nick Morrison

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