Health Care Pilot Sparks Concerns

Union leaders are to meet NHS Highland’s director of nursing amid growing concerns over a community nursing pilot project.

Changes to the roles of health visitors and to school, district and family health nurses are to be piloted in Highland and by three other boards.

Unison has serious concerns about nursing provision for children and the timeframe to prepare for the pilots.

NHS Highland said children will remain a priority under the new model.

It will be piloted from April 2008-March 2009.

The Scottish Government said staff and patients have anxieties.

NHS Highland, Tayside, Lothian and Borders are taking part in the pilots laid out by the previous Scottish Executive.

NHS Highland and Scottish Government’s responses in full

It will see health visitors, school, district, family health visitors become community health nurses.

A meeting with NHS Highland’s director of nursing, Heidi May, and Unison has been arranged for March to air concerns among staff in Argyll and Bute, said Unison.

Willie Duffy, regional organiser, said: “We have, as an organisation, concerns. We don’t think it is the best model to be rolled out.”

He said similar set-ups in parts of England had failed.

Unison said it and its members were open to adapting services, however, the union was concerned by the loss of specialists – particularly school nurses.

New recruits to that post will also enter at a lower-grade and be paid less under the pilot set-up than at present, it said.

And the union said health boards not involved in the pilot were preparing to switch to that set-up as they expect it will be the model to be rolled out across the rest of Scotland.

‘Generic nurse’

Gordon McKay, chair of Unison’s nursing and midwifery committee, said that under the pilot, staff will have to concentrate on acute clinical care and not be able to offer the services they do in their separate roles.

He said: “Unison does have serious concerns about whether a generic nurse will be able to provide as good a services for children that we are doing just now.”

The Scottish Government said the pilots will run until spring 2009.

A spokeswoman said: “We are aware that some staff and patients have anxieties about the proposed changes to community nursing and that is why we have taken the decision to test the new model to demonstrate what works and to get it right for the future.”

She added: “The Scottish Government’s aim is for all children to have access to healthcare which maximises their health and wellbeing.”