The Western Isles will need to find a new lead officer for health and social care, with the imminent departure of Dr Ron Culley from his post at Cùram Is Slàinte, the Western Isles Integration Joint Board (IJB).

Dr Culley has been chief officer of the IJB – which brings together health board and council work on a range of services including social work, housing support and community nursing – since it was set up almost five years ago.

He's leaving the Western Isles for a new job as chief executive of Quarriers, a 150-year-old charity which provides care and support for vulnerable adults and children across Scotland. The charity made the announcement of his appointment on Tuesday 28 January.

Tom Scholes, chair of Quarriers' board of trustees said: "Ron has made a major impact in shaping health and social care integration in the Western Isles and has an in-depth understanding of the care sector across Scotland and beyond. We are delighted he is joining us as our next CEO to drive forward our development as one of Scotland's leading health and social care charities."

Dr Culley said that he had very much enjoyed his time in the Western Isles and was sorry to be leaving but relished the opportunity for a new professional experience in Renfrewshire, close to his wider family network.

He said: "Helping to establish the IJB has meant bringing in new structures, working arrangements and good governance in a way which would command confidence in the local community. That may sound boring, but it was necessary to do for us to succeed.

"I am proud of the changes introduced by the Health and Social Care Partnership, not least in supporting the transition from hospital-based care to home care for people with dementia, something which meant the closure of the Clisham Ward at Western Isles Hospital. The Western Isles, like other parts of Scotland, has had to accommodate growing numbers of people with dementia, and we recognised early on that having people in hospital long-term is not good for them.

"People with dementia have rights and we should provide support that meets their needs and protects those rights. They need an environment that is comfortable, homely, protects their privacy and offers respect.

“For me that means being at home or in a homely environment like a care home – hospital is where you go if you require medical treatment, not a place to live."

The regrets that he has on leaving the islands are based on what he described as 'systemic challenges' faced by many in the public sector across rural and island areas.

He said: "The biggest problem is around recruitment and retention. We can design good services, but unless we can find people to fill the posts we are really going to struggle.

"We have carried vacancies over a long time and we have greater levels of need to support every single year. It's frustrating not to have made inroads into that, but it's partly because we don't control all the levers in relation to population growth.

"But there are some things we can change. For example, we should challenge preconceptions within the community about what a career in care involves. We need to show people that there is a hugely rewarding career there, not just open to the traditional demographic but to men, to young people, or to people returning from a career break. We have set up an apprenticeship scheme specifically designed to support people into a career in care. 

"People can acquire skills and knowledge, but I look for core values – people who are kind, person-centred, able to listen to what matters to people. That's the base I look for – a strong value set, commitment and humanity. As long as that's there we can build on it to develop a strong work-force."

Dr Culley remains at his post in Stornoway until the end of March and will take up his new role with Quarriers in April. The board has not yet announced a timetable for recruiting his successor.