The Western Isles has the greatest prevalence of obese adults, coronary heart disease and dementia in Scotland. We have the highest rate of blocked hospital beds and the third highest rate of alcohol related hospital stays.

Given the profile of our ageing population, increasing levels of frailty, rising demand for services and the challenging financial climate, our failure to change will lead to the deterioration of services. Our health and social care system is therefore in need of urgent change.

But we have an opportunity to do things differently.

The integration of health and social care will re-energise our approach to supporting good health. It will deliver more care based in the community; focus more on preventing illness and support those with long-term conditions to self-manage. It will seek to build on informal community supports to support independent living.

The Western Isles Integration Joint Board was formally brought into being by the Scottish Parliament on the 21st September 2015. Its job is to integrate health and social care services into a single structure to improve service user outcomes and deliver a high quality care experience.

In order to do this, we have developed a strategic plan that is capable of delivering those improvements. Over the last four months, we have engaged with communities across all of the islands, to understand where priorities lie, and to ensure that we respond to those. It is unsurprising that we’ve had a multitude of views expressed in response.

But there a few themes in common that have emerged: the need to create the conditions of effective inter-disciplinary working; the need for empowered localities which provide a stronger connection between how resources are used and the needs of the community; the need to redesign our system of care to sustain the independence of the people who use our services.

We now need to position ourselves to make radical change happen.

That will be done by engaging with communities, but we all need to recognise the need to prioritise, to innovate, to reform. Above all, we need to integrate our care. These are the ambitions which are set out within this strategic plan.