Posted by: ayrshirehealth | March 4, 2015

A journey to the future by @anthea_dickson

Journey to new Health & Social Care Partnership Board

Some people take a straight career path and know where exactly they’re heading. NA CouncilOthers do not. I am in the latter category.

I have been a councillor for over six years now but that only happened because of the unfortunate sudden death of our local councillor, I was between jobs, I was persuaded that it was a part-time job, and I did think that my ward had issues needing to be addressed, so I agreed to stand. The rest they say is history!

I have been fortunate. I was in opposition in North Ayrshire Council for 3.5 years before taking on Cabinet responsibility. Those earlier years allowed me to familiarise myself with the operations of the local authority and of the links to external bodies, partners and other councils.

Gravitating to social services

EthicsMy previous experience had been in accountancy, the construction industry, property management and sales and finally the NHS, involved in clinical research; originally running a research clinic; latterly in commercial Research & Development administration, and studying for my diploma in Law and Ethics in Medicine.

My interests in the Council gravitated to following the social services, criminal justice and housing portfolio.

The legislation to integrate health & social care has ensured that my two main interest areas now form the major part of my job as a Cabinet member.

Great potential

North Ayrshire is an area of great potential and beauty but has a triple whammy of needs because of the demographic profile, suffering decades of large scale unemployment, and having a rising number of children living in areas of multiple deprivation.

North AyrshireWe have a higher than average elderly population due to the desirability of retiring by the sea, especially in the North Coast. We have middle aged people suffering longterm conditions associated with prolonged unemployment, and stress of managing the effects of the economic recession. We also have high numbers of vulnerable children living in poverty; a rising number around whom we need to put extra measures.

The health service has the highest rate of emergency admissions in the country. So it is clear that we need to operate in the best possible way to match our resources with the huge demand.

Smooth the bumpy paths

When I first became a councillor, a constituent called me following a bereavement, completely frustrated over the complicated paperwork for getting diagnosis, help in the home, admission and discharge from hospital, transfer to care home and finally proving death. Working togther

The onus on the family to keep up with communicating the same information to different bodies for the care of the same patient, was driving them crazy.

I had to agree and decided that it would be a priority for me to work in the council to help smooth out some of these bumpy paths and encourage better joint departmental work and flow of helpful, relevant information.

From my previous work in hospitals, I was aware of clinical pathways and reckoned that looking at constituents’ journeys for some common support needs with clear information, might surely help. So began my active contribution as a councillor.

Shortly after that the council started participating in multi-agency working, examining user journeys and employing improvement methodology eg Public Service Improvement Framework & others.   I am not saying that the two things are directly connected, but it has been pleasing to see the positive changes in recent years!


Integration of Health & Social Care has been discussed all of my adult life because of the difficulties patients and service users have encountered when moving from care in one organisation to the other. Time bundleQuestions and comments commonly heard are – “Why do we have to wait for social services?” or “That’s a health matter!” or “Who is paying for these adaptations/this equipment?” Or “If we can’t be seen at home, lets go to A&E!”

Integrated pilot projects or small joint teams have been created in the past and in recent years, and have worked together very effectively, but the movement from one organisation to another was still ‘clunky’.

North Ayrshire Health & Social Care Partnership

Solutions through our new Health and Social Care Partnership have to come from taking a whole population overview, an examination of the joint finances available, remove duplication, and deliver to the areas of greatest need via local services. Barriers between services and within organisations have to come down so that we can respond flexibly. We cannot afford to tie up expertise or resources where it is not needed and leave other areas under pressure.

It is a huge responsibility for the new Board to steer such an important body and also a great privilege to see how new initiatives are improving service delivery.

Scottish Government LogoSuch a major operational change will take time and will roll forward, bit by bit.

The move by the Scottish Government to legislate for integration has forced willing but wary partners to roll up their sleeves and look to grab the opportunity that a big change presents, to make things better ; review how services are provided ; consider working from alternative premises ; determine the mix of expertise working together that could bring better results.

This is the exciting arena in which staff, partners, carers and users of the services are now working.

We have a great management team in place under Iona Colvin, that is committed to delivering excellent health & social care in North Ayrshire, and a Board keen to encourage developments that will make a difference.

“what is right/works for the patient?”

Strategic PlanOur strategic plan has laid out the start point of this journey, with indicators for the next 2-3 years.

We are looking forward to working with patients and service users in new ways, building confidence to manage their own conditions, working with carers in a better way, delivering service from local hubs and caring for people in their own homes or homely setting.

For me if the start point in sorting out any problem areas is “what is right/works for the patient?” then we will be able to focus on what is key to deliver better outcomes and continue to improve delivering care to, for and with the community in North Ayrshire.

I may have taken an eclectic career path to get to the North Ayrshire Health & Social Care Partnership but I am sure that it’s ‘the best place to be’ with a wonderful opportunity to ‘make a difference’.

This week’s blog was by @anthea_dickson (Councillor Anthea Dickson), Vice Chair, North Ayrshire Health & Social Care Partnership, Shadow Integration Board

18 Feb 15


  1. Thanks Anthea – really enjoyed your blog! Very interested to hear about your eclectic career path….I’m sure your broad range of experience can only add to your knowledge base.
    I see it very much like you…in that integration offers some wonderful opportunities. Using an assets based approach and quality improvement methodology can only enhance what we provide and the lives of those in our communities. Thanks again, Angela

  2. […] A journey to the future by Anthea Dickson on the Ayrshirehealth blog. […]

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