Health provision in Argyll faces key challenges, says locality manager

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The Oban Times has asked Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership (previously the health board) to deliver a series of articles putting the spotlight on workers within the service and the issues that affect working in healthcare. Answering the questions this week is Annie Macleod, locality manager for Oban, Lorn and the Isles.

Tell us more about your job.

I’ve been locality manager at Oban, Lorn and the Isles for the past 14 months. It’s been an interesting time for me as I came into the role just as legislation has passed for the integration of health and social care.  Prior to that, I have had senior management roles in health, social care and charities. My last role was director of care for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Housing Trust, an anti-poverty charity in Yorkshire.

My experience has taught me the importance of creating a nurturing environment within the workforce. Developing individual skills, fostering teamwork and listening to staff are critical. I believe front-line staff have the knowledge and many of solutions we need.

Since joining Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership as locality manager, the management team has a very visible presence, both within the hospital and the community. The local management team meets every Monday and looks at day-to-day operational issues as well as quality and safety.

How has the integration of health and social care gone so far?

The staff have been great and have risen to the challenge, both on the social care and health side. This combination of knowledge and skills gives us a well-rounded view of individual people requiring support. This helps when it comes to discussions about what we have to do to improve our services. Our system is still evolving and our staff are working extremely hard and showing a real commitment to help integrate the services.

What are the key issues?

We have identified several so far. The main challenge is that we know we need to change, to become more efficient in the way we deliver services, especially as there are recruitment and financial challenges. I don’t think anyone can have escaped the media coverage of the health and social care crisis we are in nationally, and that is mirrored in our locality. Change is often difficult, especially if it means changing traditional ways of working.

Another key challenge is communicating what we are doing and helping people to understand we are doing the best we can within the context and difficulties we face.

A significant challenge is the recruitment of staff across the board, from doctors, nurses, midwives, physios and allied health professionals and social care professionals such as social workers and home carers.

Our focus is always on how best we can provide safe and sustainable health and social care provision across Argyll and Bute.

Working in partnership is critical and there are considerable benefits we are enjoying from a full commitment from independent and third sector partners in our locality plan.

Tell us more about the locality plan.

We have got a good plan but it is true that the model of service provision and the way we approach it will be different in future.

There are already good examples of this approach. For instance, we have developed new combined health and social roles for people who work within the community. We hope these new roles will prove attractive and offer career progression, so more people will apply for these jobs with us.

We are also looking to progress a new health care model of using multi-disciplinary teams of staff in neighbourhoods in the local community. Our aim is to make more efficient use of both available resources and funding.

We are also taking a more ‘prevention rather than cure’ approach. The Lorn healthy options scheme in Taynuilt is a good example. It’s a community initiative which encourages people to get healthier and fitter through participation in a flexible programme of activity designed to meet individual needs and aspire to be a healthy village.

The Lorn Medical Centre in Oban has recently helped with the training of advanced nursing and assessment skills in the nursing teams. Among other initiatives, I am delighted the Lorn and Islands Hospital in Oban will have status as a carer-friendly hospital in the next few weeks.

This initiative will help us to identify carers and  provide further support to families and friends after relatives are discharged from hospital. We have also invested in carer support for our islands.

You mentioned that one of the challenges is communicating with the public.

That’s what behind the idea of this column. We hope to do this on a regular basis to share information about the services we already have but also about those we are developing.

Despite our recruitment and financial constraints we are trying to ensure the development of safe and sustainable services that meet the population’s demands.

There is much I am really proud of what we do locally here in Oban, Lorn and the Isles. I know we will have to continue to make difficult choices about our services. I am hoping our column will be informative and provide an opportunity to highlight what we are doing well, what is available to local people and outline the difficult choices we face to ensure safety and quality of services.

Tell us more about yourself, Annie. What helps you to relax?

I live in Morvern and I have what I think is the best commute to work in the world. Morvern is a wonderful place and I love the sea, sailing and kayaking. You can see me sometimes swimming in the Sound of Mull.

I’m married with two children, both of whom are graduating in the same week this summer.

What drives you?

I trained as a nurse in Edinburgh and did my midwifery training in Glasgow. And I think that training and its values, especially the value of providing the very best of care, has never left me.