Conference Reports

This section contains the Reports from each conference held in the various project partner countries.

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 the 10th to the 12th October 2011.

The conference was opened by the Vice Chairman of NHS Western Isles Health Board Malcolm Smith. He welcomed the 60 – 70 delegates from the Western Isles, other parts of Scotland and the NPP partner countries; Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Scotland and Sweden. The Project Director, Andrew Sim, described the workings of the Northern Periphery Programme and gave details of the Recruit and Retain project.

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, 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 National (Scottish) setting was described by 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 Greene, 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 Local (Western Isles) setting was portrayed by presentations on healthcare recruitment in the Western Isles by Gordon Jamieson, Chief Executive of NHS Western Isles, 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 recruiting and retaining 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.

The Recruit and Retain project, which is match funded by the European Regional Development Fund, sets out to find solutions to the persistent problem of difficulties in recruiting and retaining high quality health care providers for the remote rural areas of Northern Europe.

It has five partners from the Agency for Health Protection in Nuuk, Greenland, from FSA Akureyri Hospital in Akureyri, Iceland, from Finnmarkssykehuset Finnmark, Norway, from the County of Västerbotten, Umeå, Sweden and from NHS Western Isles, Stornoway, Scotland.

By developing products and services which:

• advertise and promote the opportunities for health care workers in remote rural areas and emphasise the positive aspects of working in this challenging environment
• develop ways to reduce professional isolation by traditional and innovative methods; which include a holistic perspective which incorporates “buddying” for new recruits and long term professional mentoring for established employees
• generate urban rural links with universities, professional training bodies and service providers
• find ways to support spouses, social networks, housing, child care and schooling
• encourage the development of systems which enables local remote rural populations and local authorities to support their health care service workers

The project will produce a business plan to develop a private/public organisation or system to deliver a service package for the recruitment and retention of health care workers in remote rural areas. It is expected that such an organisation or system would take on many different forms and may vary from one country to another.


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