NHS Highland study tour

NHS Highland has undertaken major transformation of its health and care service, and is considered an exemplar of innovation and quality improvement.

About this programme

Over four days on this course you'll have the chance to compare and contrast health care systems and the way they deal with issues such as system leadership, integrated care, leading across boundaries and maximising value. Importantly the course also offers a rare opportunity to step back from the pressures of your day-to-day work, and to think about applying the lessons learnt in the beautiful surroundings of the Scottish Highlands when you return.


A view of mountains in the Scottish Highlands

Responsibility for health care in Scotland has been devolved to the Scottish Government since 1999. There are now clear differences in the way health care is delivered in Scotland compared to other areas of the United Kingdom. A move away from individual trusts to health boards – bringing together secondary, primary and community services – serves as an early example of these differences. As a relatively small country with a population of only 5.3 million people, Scotland has taken the opportunity to adopt a nationwide approach to the delivery of some services and contracts, such as ambulances and primary care contractor services.

Legislation means that health boards and local authorities were expected to have integrated services for – as a minimum – older people by April this year. This move towards integrating health and social care, in addition to shared national targets and nationally-available data, means that health systems have more autonomy and local responsibility in Scotland than in other areas of the United Kingdom.

Who is it for?

This study tour is particularly relevant to senior clinicians and managers who are leading system, organisational and service change. Past participants on our study tours have included chief executives, directors, senior managers and lead clinicians. The tour will also be of interest to those responsible for system-level integration.

We deliberately keep the programme small, and select the group to allow for maximum exposure and access for attendees.

How will you benefit from this study tour?

On this tour you will benefit from direct access to the executive team at NHS Highland to hear first-hand from leaders who have made change happen. NHS Highland have learned from international examples such as Virginia Mason and Jönköping, and will explain how they have adopted and adapted many of their approaches accordingly.

The tour will offer you time and space to reflect on your own challenges, and the opportunity to refresh your own thinking while learning from an outstanding example of quality improvement and innovation close to home.

The study tour will explore:

  • delivering integrated care
  • embedding quality improvement to transform care
  • delivering care in a remote and rural environment
  • system leadership.

Highland context

As one of 14 territorial health boards in Scotland, NHS Highland has been undertaking a major transformation of health and care services within a complex and unique set of environmental factors.

It faces the challenge of diminishing resources combined with an increasingly frail older population, common to many parts of the United Kingdom. The opportunities of providing truly integrated care across such a large area of Scotland are now being maximised through partnerships with – and learning from – other health care systems.

During this study tour, there will be opportunities to experience the impact of these changes through visits across the north of the Highland area, within easy travel distance of Inverness. Through meeting local professional and clinical staff, senior leaders and partners, you will be able to experience the impact of 'the Highland way'.

NHS Highland has taken both innovative and pragmatic approaches to solving the particular problems presented by delivering care in a remote and rural area of Scotland. They have had significant experience in assessing problems and overcoming difficulties through transformational change.