The chief executive of NHS Grampian has revealed plans for the future of the health service as it recovers from the pandemic.
Professor Caroline Hiscox stressed the system will need to be more “community-focused” with levels of ill health increasing across the region.
Preventative healthcare will become more of a focus and digital technology will continue to be used for appointments.
Prof Hiscox said coronavirus had changed NHS Grampian’s understanding of how services will need to adapt.
‘The world has changed around us’
“I’m not convinced we will ever go back to normal,” she said.
“The world has changed around us, the level of ill health in our communities is higher; the understanding we now have about health equality and vulnerable parts of our population and the different understanding we have about what our workforce needs; the fact that our physical environments are not fit for purpose in a number of environments.”
Staff have now started planning for the future to rebuild the service after working through the challenges of Covid-19.
Services have had to adapt to additional pressures during the pandemic with many now delivered to patients in different ways.
Digital technology will continue to be used in the future
Digital technology has been used more widely to free up space in hospitals and reduce the risk of the spread of infection in GP surgeries.
And modern technology such as Near Me, a video consultation service enabling people to attend appointments from home, has become such a success it will continue to be used.
Statistics show the Near Me service was used for 58, 145 appointments in Grampian over an 18 week period up until the end of May this year.
There was on average 3,000 – 3,5000 consultations carried out across the region every week – more in Grampian per head of population than any other health board on the mainland in Scotland.
Patients benefited from digital appointments during the pandemic because they could continue getting access to health care.
Prof Hiscox said the technology improves the service for patients who no longer need to travel to buildings for appointments, particularly people living in rural locations.
She said it gives the NHS another option and is particularly beneficial for younger generations who prefer to do things digitally.
She said: “There’s definitely a shift in regards to how the public accept digital work with health and care colleagues and that is not that it is a panacea, it is definitely not and we should continue to deliver care on as person-centred an approach as possible.
“There is something about Near Me and how that enables a very different way of delivering healthcare. That will be embedded, and that will continue to become the norm as we learn what are the positives from that, what are the negatives from that. But we will not step back from that now.”
NHS Grampian is keen to hear the views of the public
The health board has launched a consultation and hopes members of the public will share their opinions to help shape the future of its services.
Prof Hiscox said it was essential for staff to understand the role of the NHS in its eighth decade. This will help with its overall aim to improve the health of the population, rather than just responding to ill-health.
She added: “I believe it needs to look very different, it needs to be as community-focused as possible and we need to make sure that we have mutual respect for all parts of our health and care pathway. I think that’s a big change for us.”
To take part in the consultation, you can complete a survey.
Or you can get in touch by emailing NHS Grampian at firstname.lastname@example.org
Calls can also be made to 01224 558098 to request a paper copy of the questionnaire which you can return via Freepost.
The consultation will remain open until August 31, 2o21.