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The momentum to establish Public Health Scotland is now gathering pace, with the new national body’s shadow chair, now in place. One month into his tenure, Jim McGoldrick reflects on the lessons learned so far and ahead to future challenges…

“I think it’s fair to say the last month has been something of a whirlwind. It was clear from the start that the work required to establish Public Health Scotland was substantial. I expected nothing less. What came as a pleasant surprise, though, was the level of excitement and commitment from the staff involved in helping to realise this important transition.

My own appointment marked the start of the official process to create a living, breathing national body, and we’ll shortly be interviewing for a permanent Chief Executive. I’m pleased to say that the level of interest expressed in this exciting position has been hugely encouraging. The role has attracted a very strong and diverse response and I’m confident that the range of skills and experience evident will prove a good match for the task at hand, and provide a strong foundation for the new organisation.

Elsewhere, the establishment of the Executive Management Team has been an important step and while the composition will change over time as permanent appointments are made, we’re now starting to put concrete plans in place for PHS ahead of its launch next spring. With so much obvious movement around this project it’s natural that people want to get involved as soon as they can but we have to take the time we need to get it right. It’s important that the EMT is allowed to grow into its role and we are already seeing a significant amount of headway being made.

Being a new face, my focus has been meeting a broad range of people from both organisations and it’s great to see so many of our dedicated staff keen to hit the ground running. I’m confident the level of buy-in we’re seeing will help to get us off to the best possible start once our operational mission and general direction has been agreed and put in motion.

While creating a new national organisation involves a lot of work, in some ways forging something from existing bodies can be even more complicated. You’re fusing different cultures into a single vision, and with new ways of working central to this project, we will all to varying degrees be taken out of our comfort zones and challenged to think a little differently. It can be an anxious time, but if we embrace this change I believe we can do something really exciting.

One element that pre-dated my time here was the engagement programme held with partners from across Scotland. The feedback I’ve received from face-to-face events and through more formal means like the recent consultation, highlights the strong levels of interest PHS is attracting. People and organisations out there are equally excited and want to see positive change. To do that, we will need to continue the conversation and this will be a focus for me in my role over the coming weeks and months.

It’s important that PHS delivers relevant services for local areas and that doesn’t mean telling people what we think is best. The internal challenge will be to evolve to meet local needs, while externally we’ll need to provide a more bespoke service that truly enables change at a community level. That is why a key focus of my engagement will be to better understand the challenge facing our communities and partners ambition for PHS to contribute to driving the transformation we wish to see in Scotland’s health and wellbeing.

Understanding the complexity and scale of the challenge is important as we embark on the process to recruit a shadow board for the new organisation in advance of April 2020. If we are to establish an organisation that delivers for the people of Scotland then it will be important that the board has at its disposal the expertise and experience necessary to set the overall strategic direction and provide the appropriate governance and accountability for the organisation to deliver our collective ambition for Public Health Scotland. This will increasingly be the focus of my engagement over the coming weeks as we begin the recruitment process.

So to conclude, while I’ve only been in post for a few weeks I’ve been impressed by the progress that’s been made so far - establishment of an EMT, progress in recruiting a chief executive and planning to recruit a board. There is obvious enthusiasm to create something different and while we still have much to do I’m confident that we have the skills, expertise and people we need to deliver a Public Health Scotland that will be central to delivering a Scotland where everybody thrives."

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