I was a teenager when I first visited Argyll. I was entranced. A week in Lochgoilhead won me over, although I confess to falling in the loch and moaning on my way up the Cobbler! So when many years late as an adult I moved to Helensburgh, on the doorstep of the beauty I was delighted to return. For several years I worked in service redesign in the area and it took me all over. I remember sometimes having my breath taken away by the scenery, even with the frustrations of driving around including log lorries and caravans doing emergency castle stops!
It's years since I worked in Argyll but in my new role I’m delighted to have the opportunity to be working there again. The team working across health and social care have an impressive commitment to wanting to improve care and to make it more person-centred. They have looked at what has happened around the world and close to home and now want to make it a reality in Argyll and Bute. This is terrain that covers more than 20 inhabited islands, remote mainland towns and roads that make travel a variable feast. This is a part of Scotland where ferry times can define your day, where serious illnesses can be complicated by geography, where you can meet four seasons in one day and they all have their own beauty.
Next week over one hundred people gather in Arrochar with a view of the Cobbler( I won't be climbing it this time) and the work will begin in earnest to build a network that puts the principles of person centred care at its core. It's such an honour to work with such committed, hardworking people from all sectors and really exciting to see it take shape. People who use services locally too are an important group and will ensure that whatever is shaped is right for them.
This is challenging work, it will need the focus and commitment to follow it though, no cultural change happens overnight but it's got all the right ingredients for success-more than anything it's the drive to improve care and services to benefit all. We know what people want to see are joined up services where people listen, show compassion and flexibility.Its about people in realtionship, to enable wellbeing thats at the heart of the network.
When you live in rural areas you know some things can't be on your door step, like the woman I met who was having treatment for breast cancer and lived on one of the islands. She accepted her treatment would mean she needed to be away for home at times. What she did need though was support not just from family and friends but also the services. There was no Maggie’s centre or similar to provide support and kindness and people who have been there too. Like many it's not that people expect too much when we ask what matters to them; it’s simply to be heard, it's to express their fears, it's to get the best treatment of course but it’s also to be helped through the ups and downs. A network can really support this kind of joined up, compassionate care.
I'm hoping there will be a bit of snow on the hills of Argyll. And maybe if we are lucky we will get a repeat of the wonderful show of the northern lights like this over the Clannish stones earlier this week.