Over six months since she arrived at NHS Forth Valley as its new chief executive, Jane Grant admits she is still learning about the health authority.
But her first impression hasn’t changed: this is a service full of enthusiastic staff, where everyone wants to do the best they can for patients.
The bonus is that she inherits a state-of-the-art hospital at Larbert to provide acute care and community hospitals in Falkirk, Stirling, Bo’ness and Clackmannanshire providing rehabilitation.
In these and the area’s 56 health centres, around 7000 staff are employed.
Along with all these individuals, Jane also has responsibility for ensuring that the 300,000 people living in the area have a health service which is fit for purpose and will look after them “from the cradle to grave”.
While an annual budget of £550 million may sound like a lot of cash, in times of ever-growing demand on its resources, ensuring NHS Forth Valley continues its enviable record of staying in the black never gets any easier.
But none of these are viewed as anything but a challenge for the mother-of-three who has 30 years experience in the health service.
Coming from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Scotland’s largest health authority, to one of the smallest hasn’t proved too much of a transition.
“Although the scale is different, most of the challenges are similar,” Jane acknowledged. “I didn’t know a huge amount about Forth Valley before I arrived, apart from the new hospital and its robotics, of course, However, I’ve enjoyed the last few months getting out and about and, in particular, meeting the staff.
“There is a lot of good work already being done, particularly with local authorities, and I look forward to helping to take that forward.”
Looking ahead, she said nobody in the NHS can afford to rest on their laurels but said it shouldn’t be forgotten that huge improvements have been made to the service in recent years.
She added: “When I started out in the NHS it was the norm for people to be waiting for very long periods of time for treatment – it could be up to two years for an orthopaedic appointment and that was in the majority of health boards. We now must meet our targets as set by the government.
“Similarly, the amount of time people spend in hospital has reduced. The emphasis is now on keeping people out of hospital as much as we can, but to continue providing top quality and safe care in an appropriate setting.”
Jane believes the key to keeping people well is prevention and that’s why she is keen to promote what she sees as the vitally important role of health improvement.
“We need to get the message out there about the importance of a healthy diet, exercise, stopping smoking and watching alcohol consumption. However, we also need to provide the support to people because these things don’t happen overnight. Part of our job is to do what we can to encourage people to live healthy lives,” she said.
“It’s been a very interesting first six months and I’ve learned a lot. Everyone has been incredibly supportive, particularly in answering all my questions. Now I look forward to working with everyone on the challenges we face in the future.”