Taking the Plunge

Allied Health Professionals Jane, Lorna and Pauline of NHS Ayrshire and Arran share their experience building relationships between the third sector and the NHS.


Hi, we are Jane, Lorna and Pauline, three Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) working for NHS Ayrshire and Arran who took a plunge into the unknown. In 2014 we put our size 10 walking boots on to take a romp into what is now known as the ‘Third Sector’ but which was previously known as the ‘Voluntary Sector’.

We had keys links with Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland, Health and Social Care Alliance, Scotland (ALLIANCE) and Age Scotland who welcomed us in – as did all the Third Sector organisations we approached.


What led us to dip our toes in? We successfully applied for a NES AHP Career Fellowship which allowed funding for practicalities like funding our time to learn and develop. This meant while we were involved in learning activities with the Third Sector, we knew the people who receive our AHP services were not being left without a service. The aim of the Fellowship was to improve AHP’s knowledge, understanding and relationships with the Third Sector to support more effective cross sector working, facilitating co productive working.

What did we do?

  • We asked lots of questions.
  • We met with many people who work or are closely linked with the Third Sector.
  • We went to cross party working groups at Scottish Government.
  • We met and listened to people who benefit from the Third Sector.
  • We attended conference events.
  • We embraced technology by blogging and podcasting.

What did we learn?

  • The depth and breadth of expertise that lies behind the ‘charity shop front’.
  • The Third sector is out there delivering first class and innovative person-centred care and often when other services have finished.
  • The Third Sector is embedded at a strategic level, for example in shaping policy at Scottish Government level and in developing National Guidelines.
  • The range of key roles and opportunities available for AHPs in the Third Sector.
  • As AHPs and with our service users we can all benefit from truly working co productively.

Moving forward

As a result of our improved links with the third sector we have already been able to develop a number of initiatives which will continue in to the future, supporting our service users to live fuller lives in the community, this has included a new an Inreach Communication Group in affiliation with CHSS as well as a Multi Morbidity bid to the Integration Fund to improve access to physical activity and self management options for the people of Ayrshire and Arran.

As our fellowship draws to a close we need to keep our walking boots on with an embedded foot firmly in the Third Sector. Our role will be to share our new knowledge, encourage others to dip a toe in and to initiate change.

We all need to find out what is happening on our doorsteps, take time to build new relationships and develop meaningful partnerships.

We need to see it as our job.

Take a plunge with us.


If you would like any more information please do not hesitate to contact us by e mail:

Scotland addresses chronic pain

Everyone knows what pain is. It is part of everyday life, and though always unpleasant, usually serves to protect us – for example by making us rest an injured limb, or forcing us to withdraw our hand from the flame. But sometimes this “normal” pain keeps going, after the danger is gone, the injury healed, or when there is an underlying disease that keeps producing pain. This is when it becomes chronic pain.

A major European study found that 1 in 5 people currently has chronic pain. Our own research in Scotland found that, in people aged over 75, this figure was as high as 60%, and the pain was more often severe, disabling and debilitating. It can affect physical, psychological and social health, and leave people feeling isolated and depressed. Some of us assume that “aches and pains” are a normal part of growing older, and that we should tolerate this in silence. However, there is no need to do this, and we desperately need our healthcare services and treatments to address this problem effectively.

Fortunately, chronic pain has recently begun to receive the political and scientific attention it deserves. In 2008, after many years of lobbying and commissioned reports, the Scottish Government recognized chronic pain as “a long-term condition in its own right”, probably the first government to do this, and stimulated progress in policy, research and development.

Professor Blair H. Smith

Professor Blair H. Smith

The Government and NHS Scotland collaborated to establish a national pain service improvement programme, and appointed the first Lead Clinician for Chronic Pain (“Pain Tsar”). They agreed a chronic pain service model, with an identifiable, standard “patient pathway”, from management in the community, rightthrough to highly specialist clinics, meeting the needs of people of all ages. Implementing this model is a priority for all NHS Boards, under the Government’s NHS Scotland 2020 Local Delivery Plan Guidance, supported by pain Service Improvement Groups in each Board. Approval has just been given for the first residential chronic pain service in Scotland, providing intensive treatment for those most severely affected.

What about new treatments for chronic pain? Although some established drugs have been “re-purposed” or developed to be delivered in new ways, there have been no new drug classes since the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen), in the 1960s. The search for new drugs is constant, but only one part of the story. We continue to develop non-pharmacological treatments, including psychological approaches and physiotherapy. Self-management (including education, increasing physical activity, and personal goal-setting) should always form part of the overall management. This is the subject of our research programme, funded by the cross-Council Lifelong Health and Wellbeing initiative and focusing on older adults.

In Universities and the NHS all across Scotland, researchers are actively pursuing improvements in the understanding and treatment of pain. In March the University of Dundee hosted the 4th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Scottish Pain Research Community (SPaRC). SPaRC’s aims are that (1) treatment of pain in Scotland is informed by the best evidence; and (2) pain research in Scotland addresses the most important clinical questions. SPaRC presents an active and internationally-competitive approach to addressing chronic pain, ranging from molecular mechanisms of pain and drug response, to population-based trials of service innovations.

The internationally-renowned Scottish Intercollegiate Guideline Network (SIGN) published the first evidence-based guideline covering the management of chronic pain, in December 2013. This impressive project identifies and collects, for the first time, the best available evidence for all forms of non-specialist treatment, and includes versions for patients and professionals internationally.

We have recognized and begun to address the problem, but much more work is needed. More information about SPaRC and chronic pain is available for patients and professionals at www.chronicpainscotland.org.

Blair H. Smith is Professor of Population Health Science, University of Dundee; and Consultant in Pain Medicine, NHS Tayside


Clann an Latha an De Keep On Walking!

Our active Western Isles members group is set to become even more active due to support from our Age Scotland grant pot and from the Paths for Health and NHS Western Isles Health Walks Project.

Wicker lady group and Chris Ryan

Wicker lady group and Chris Ryan

We recently awarded Shawbost group, Clann an Latha an De, a £500 grant, which with  practical support from Chris Ryan, Paths for Health Co-ordinator for NHS Western Isles,  re-kindled the group’s involvement in the Transported Walks initiative.

Chris explains how important this aspect of the project has become:

“A primary aim of our health walks project in the Outer Hebrides is to encourage people to increase their levels of physical activity through regular walking. Our early experience was that many people preferred walking out-with their immediate community and that providing transport was key to getting those people involved.

“With this in mind we introduced a transported walks programme, initially on Lewis and Harris. Working in partnership with the local authority, I put together short programmes of transported walks in several districts. Using a minibus hired from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, we have delivered programmes for 6 groups on Lewis and Harris since 2007. Three of these groups, including the Westside Transported Group, have remained very active and the Westside Group in particular have always had very strong participation with an average of 12 participants in each walk. “

Clann an Latha an De

Clann an Latha an De walking group

Recent funding changes have resulted in groups needing to fund their own transport for the walks – so Cathie Macdonald, Secretary of Clann an Latha an De, approached Age Scotland to see if we could help. “As a group, we try to find ways of encouraging ourselves to be active and healthy, and to give ourselves things to work towards and to look forward to. As well as our get-togethers, talks and outings, members really value the opportunity for guided transported walks offered by Chris through Paths for Health and we are really pleased that these can now continue.”

We are delighted that the charity has been able to link with Paths for Health and NHS Western Isles to support Clann an Latha an De in restarting this much-enjoyed activity. Jo Cowan, Development Officer North for Age Scotland said “Giving older people opportunities to come together and to keep active is at the very heart of what our member groups do. It’s a pleasure to be able to support those aspirations.”

For more information on health walks and Paths for Health in the Western Isles, contact Chris Ryan on 01851 762 017/016 or email chris.ryan1@nhs.net

Improving allied healthcare for older people

In February Yolanda Strachan joined Age Scotland as an Allied Health Professions (AHPs) National Consultant, a post she’ll share with Jenny Ackland.  She explains what Allied Health Professions are, and why her role matters.  


Jenny and I are Allied Health Professionals (AHPs). Jenny comes from a Podiatry background and I come from a background of Speech and Language Therapy. Most people encounter the AHPs through exposure to services as part of their NHS and/or social care, for example Occupational Therapy or Physiotherapy.

The AHPs are increasingly placing emphasis on providing person-centred care with the growing realisation that health and well-being stretch way beyond physical needs.

The AHP family currently consists of;

  • Art Therapists (Music, Drama and Art)
  • Dietitians
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Orthoptists
  • Orthotists
  • Paramedics
  • Physiotherapists
  • Podiatrists
  • Prosthetists
  • Radiographers (Diagnostic and Therapeutic)
  • Speech and Language Therapists.

Ours is a national role, funded initially for two years by the Scottish Government through our Chief Health Professions Officer.  This is the fourth such role to be established in Third Sector with AHP colleagues already in post at the Care Inspectorate, Alzheimer Scotland and the Alliance.

Having spent most of our working lives in the NHS, we are thoroughly excited to be bringing that knowledge and skill base directly through the door of Age Scotland, and to be carrying the messages and focus of Age Scotland to the AHPs.

Please follow our progress on Twitter using #AHPLoveLaterLife.

Yolanda (L) and Jenny (R)

Yolanda (L) and Jenny (R)

Patient Opinion working with Age Scotland

We are pleased to welcome guest blogger, Natalie Deacon from Patient Opinion to our blog to talk about how Age Scotland and Patient Opinion are working together to help improve health services in Scotland.

Patient Opinion logo

We are delighted to announce today that Age Scotland are our newest charity to use the Patient Opinion widget on their website!

Age Scotland and Patient Opinion believe your stories can really make a difference to our health services. We are excited about our collaboration and look forward together, to help get your stories heard by the right people.

Who are Patient Opinion?
Patient Opinion is an independent website about your experiences of UK health services, good or bad. We pass your stories to the right people to make a difference.We are a not for profit social enterprise and we believe that the stories of patients and carers can help improve health services across the UK.

We use the power of the web to carry the voices of patients and carers into the heart of health services. You can share your experiences of healthcare anonymously, we never disclose any information about the person who is telling the story.  All stories are published on the Patient Opinion website for everyone to read and the NHS can then respond to your comments to tell you how they are using your experiences to make services better for everyone.

We currently work with Diabetes UK, Hepatitis Scotland, Angus Long Term conditions, Chest, Heart and Stroke, Stroke Association, Fife Young Carers and many other national charity organisations.

Over74,000 stories have already been told on Patient Opinion with lots about Scotland and lots about older people.

What is the widget? If you have recently used the NHS you can use the Patient Opinion widget to share your experiences and we can pass on your thanks or concerns to the relevant health board. Patient Opinion asks the health service to respond to the feedback you share, but does not reveal your identity. The widget means it is easy and convenient to share your story with Patient Opinion though Age Scotland’s website.

See Patient Opinion in action:  We recently had a story from a patient who was having problems with the  ENT appointment booking system at Raigmore hospital. Their concerns were taken seriously and a positive change was made because of the comments they shared on the Patient Opinion website.

Tell your story today!