We go the extra mile, by car and on ferries

By Lynne Millar Marie Curie Clinical Nurse Manager – Argyll and Bute blog-image Lynne Millar


As our new nursing service for the Western Isles has just started this month, I wanted to share with you how we make things work in this rural and remote part of Scotland. With a small population living on 15 different islands, our challenge is to provide a high-quality service that is also responsive to people’s needs, no matter where they live.

The Western Isles, which is part of the Outer Hebrides, is a chain of more than 65 islands in the most north-western corner of Scotland. While most of the local population of around 27,000 people live on Lewis – the largest island in the archipelago – others live on one of the 14 islands scattered across the region.

Adapting our nursing service according to local needs

In places like the Western Isles, people often have a number of jobs that they do on a regular basis so that a range of essential services can be provided for the local communities. Because of the small population on the islands, our nursing staff work flexibly to meet the fluctuating demand for our service and the individual needs of terminally ill patients. As the service will be caring for a small number of patients across the islands, this is a practical way for us to plan our nursing resources and provide support to patients and their families, as and when they need it. We first piloted this way of working with our nursing service in a similarly rural part of Scotland, on the islands of Orkney and Islay. We found that it has worked really well in those areas, as our patients get the care they need to stay at home, and Marie Curie Nurses are able to work around their other roles – depending on what’s needed locally.

Getting to our patients, wherever they are

Here, on the Scottish islands, travelling long distances on country roads, taking the ferries to get to the next island, braving bad weather or spending the night at a guesthouse in a far-flung location are all part of a day’s work for Marie Curie Nurses. In my experience, our nursing staff will go the extra mile – and this could sometimes mean 100 miles on a round-trip – to make sure patients and their families receive the care they need at home, despite these geographical challenges. The new Marie Curie Nursing Service in the Western Isles is providing overnight care to people with any terminal illness living in North and South Uist including Benbecula and Barra. The service will be expanding to Lewis and Harris in the coming months.