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A rural archipelago

Orkney is an archipelago of islands with a total population of 20,000. In 2010 NHS Orkney created an Isles Network of Care designed to deliver high quality health services to nine outer isles communities and to support the practitioners providing the services. Primary care services on these islands are delivered by either GPs or Nurse Practitioners. Successful Rural Fellow applicants to Orkney will provide backfill cover to the permanent GPs on these islands to allow the incumbent to take annual or study leave and spend time working on the mainland of Orkney.

The Rural Fellows will therefore provide an important element to the Network of Care. Whilst providing services on the outer isles the Rural Fellow will be supported by the Network of Care, which will include, the Fellow’s base location, the local community, the Primary Care OOH service and 24-hour emergency  support from the Balfour Hospital in Kirkwall. The positions have been designed so that individuals can gain experience of remote single-handed practice whilst always being confident of support from experienced practitioners.

The document “Isles Network of Care” provides further information as to how the system works.

The Balfour Hospital, Kirkwall is designated a Rural General Hospital with Consultant-led  services in Medicine, Surgery, Anaesthetics and Obstetrics and Gynaecology, along with other nurse led services such as cancer & palliative care (including the local delivery of chemotherapy), rehabilitation and renal dialysis. The Balfour Hospital enjoys particularly
close working relationship with Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. The Balfour Hospital also has two full time Rural Hospital GPs and two Rural Track GPST posts.

Over recent years NHS Orkney has taken an  active role in pioneering new ways of delivering  healthcare to a remote and rural community.  Videoconferencing is used routinely in clinical, educational and managerial settings.

Photo by She_Who_Must (creative commons licence)