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About NHS Highland

Putting quality first to deliver better health, better care and better value - The Highland Quality Approach


The population of NHS Highland is 320,000 people and is spread over 32,500 square kilometres, making it one of the largest and most sparsely populated Health Boards in the UK.

As a result, a comprehensive report would be required to fully describe the health status; however, a couple of  indicators provide helpful insights.

Firstly, life expectancy at birth allows us to see how long a child born today is likely to live. In NHS Highland, this is currently 76.6 years for males and 81.3 for females, which compares favourably to the national average of 76.1 and 80.6 years for males and females respectively.

In addition, the number of people living beyond their 75th birthday reads positively when compared to the national average. Standardised premature death rates highlight those who die before reaching this milestone and NHS Highland currently has a rate of 300 per 100,000 deaths as opposed to 336 per 100,000 deaths nationally.

Living longer combined with fewer premature deaths inevitably leads to an ageing population and this is certainly happening in NHS Highland. Even when compared to our own national population of over 65’s; NHS Highland, at 19%, is two percent higher.

It is estimated that this percentage will continue to grow steadily over the next few decades, reaching 24% by 2032. This rapid ageing of the population presents health care challenges – especially dementia – that are already manifesting.

When placed alongside economic changes, the dependency ratio will change considerably, with a decreasing number of people in employment to care for the increasing number of elderly people.

The three main causes of death in Highland continue to be stroke, heart disease and cancer.

NHS Highland is the biggest employer in the region so our staff are also  important members of our communities.  As an organisation, we make a very significant contribution to the local economy.

The Scottish Highlands are known world wide as containing some of the nation’s most outstanding natural environment. This also presents some challenges in delivering services.  For instance a difficult terrain, rugged coastlines, many remote and rural area, inhabited islands, limited transport and communications infrastructure. 

How NHS Highland is organised 

NHS Highland is managed by a Board of Executive and Non-Executive Directors and is accountable to the Scottish Government through the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing.

The Chair and each of the Non-Executive Directors are appointed by the Cabinet Secretary.

Executive Directors are the Chief Executive, Medical Director, Director of Public Health, Chief Operating Officer, Director of Human Resources, Director of Nursing and Director of Finance.

The Board governs our accountability and performance.

Corporate Services

These are Highland-wide departments or functions and include Business Transformation; Clinical Governance and Risk Management; Dental Services; e-Health; Finance; Human Resources; Infections, Prevention and Control; Nursing and Midwifery; Pharmacy; Planning and Performance; Procurement; Public Health and Public Relations and Engagement.

Planning, co-ordinating and delivery of services

The planning, co-ordination and delivery of services across NHS Highland is managed through Highland Health and Social Care Service and Argyll and Bute Community Health Partnership.