The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands)

Trips a chance to learn, says trust

- BY JAMIE MCKEN­ZIE

Thirty-five NHS High­land staff trav­elled to North Amer­ica and Europe for train­ing and devel­op­ment courses and con­fer­ences be­tween July 2016 and the end of Fe­bru­ary this year.

Of these staff mem­bers, 28 trav­elled to des­ti­na­tions in Europe while seven jet­ted off to the USA.

The trips were taken de­spite the board’s finances com­ing un­der the mi­cro­scope in re­cent years, with it reg­u­larly bat­tling over­spends and be­ing forced to seek a £15 mil­lion loan from the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment this year to break even.

How­ever, an NHS High­land spokesman last night de­fended the trips as a way to en­sure that the board “learns from in­dus­try ex­perts” and “de­liv­ers and sus­tain high- qual­ity ser­vices” for the peo­ple of the High­lands.

The North Amer­ica links have been con­tro­ver­sial since the board pro­voked fury in 2012 by send­ing di­rec­tors to Seat­tle for two one-week pe­ri­ods to learn about sav­ing money at the Vir­ginia Ma­son Med­i­cal Cen­tre.

The lat­est fig­ures have emerged af­ter The Press and Journal asked NHS High­land for de­tails of all staff travel cost­ing more than £100 since July 2016.

As well as re­peated trips to Salt Lake City, the trips to the USA in­cluded two se­nior man­agers and one board mem­ber vis­it­ing Orlando in De­cem­ber for a six-day trip, cost­ing £1,748.1 in flights and £1,300.01 for ho­tels.

This was to at­tend the In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute of Health­care Im­prove­ment Fo­rum, where thou­sands of del­e­gates gather to meet and learn from each other and ex­perts in var­i­ous health­care fields.

An NHS High­land spokesman said trips to Seat­tle and Toronto in re­cent years have been un­der­taken to learn about “ev­i­dence-based” qual­ity im­prove­ment in health and adult so­cial care, to make

“If they can’t sup­ply the de­tails... that smacks of loose man­age­ment”

bet­ter use of re­sources as part of the board’s “lean ap­proach”.

He said that, since the orig­i­nal train­ing in Seat­tle in 2012, they have been able to train 33 mem­bers of staff and an­other 20 are in train­ing and that “hun­dreds” have had ba­sic, in­ter­me­di­ate or ad­vanced train­ing.

The spokesman also high­lighted links to Alaska as part of a pro­gramme to re­cruit and re­tain health­care pro­fes­sion­als in ru­ral ar­eas.

In one case, NHS staff learned about a com­mu­nity-owned health­care model and adopted it in the Small Isles by train­ing peo­ple there as health and so­cial care sup­port work­ers, sup­ported by vis­it­ing GPs.

The health board was un­able to pro­vide spe­cific in­for­ma­tion on the pur­pose of an eight­day trip to At­lanta in De­cem­ber, or a week-long trip to Port­land in Maine or the Euro­pean trips.

Chat chair­man Bill Fernie, a for­mer bud­get leader at High­land Coun­cil, said it was “sur­pris­ing” NHS High­land was un­able to pro­vide full de­tails on the trips, adding: “If they can’t sup­ply the de­tails of these trips, then that smacks of loose man­age­ment.”

Mr Fernie said there is enough in­for­ma­tion about lean man­age­ment on­line and through man­age­ment courses run by uni­ver­si­ties within the UK and enough op­por­tu­nity to ben­e­fit from shared learn­ing from other lo­cal gov­ern­ment bod­ies.

How­ever, the NHS High­land spokesman said there are no univer­sity courses at present which cover the “type of lean pro­duc­tion ap­proach” that they are learn­ing from abroad. He added that they are work­ing with UHI to de­velop op­tions for this.

Skye coun­cil­lor and econ­o­mist Ron­ald Mac­Don­ald, said that in­stead of trav­el­ling to Alaska it would have been “cheaper” and “more ef­fec­tive” look­ing to­wards the Isle of Lewis to un­der­stand how outof-hours cover could be bet­ter pro­vided in Skye and Raasay. He said the health board should spend more time study­ing the ar­eas it is try­ing to serve in­stead of de­vot­ing pub­lic funds to over­seas trips of “du­bi­ous value.”

Three med­i­cal staff trav­elled to Am­s­ter­dam on three sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions, three se­nior man­agers also trav­elled to Copen­hagen and Son­der­borg in Den­mark and an­other se­nior man­ager and med­i­cal staff mem­ber went again in Novem­ber.

 ??  ?? Ron­ald Mac­Don­ald
Ron­ald Mac­Don­ald

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