Highland area covers almost 10,000 square miles which represents
approximately one third of the Scottish land surface and is
larger than the whole of Wales. It is the largest Health Board
in geographical terms within the United Kingdom. The population
of 211,000 represents 4% of the Scottish total and is settled
mainly around the Moray Firth area in the East, Fort William in
the West and Wick and Thurso in the North. The Board area may
double its population from tourism, particularly during the
rural nature of the area is characterised by mountain ranges,
lochs, an extensive coastline and sparsely populated areas. This
makes delivery of effective and efficient services particularly
challenging. It is only in the last 20 to 30 years that a
reliable transport infrastructure has been developed in the
region (road, rail and air links). The new Inverness airport
development and the potential for the addition of international
flights with help bring the Highlands closer to the rest of the
UK and Europe.
Highland area is like the rest of Scotland in terms of many
aspects of health, lifestyle and disease. In addition, the area
presents unique challenges of remoteness for an important
proportion of its population. These characteristics bring with
them problems of loneliness, reflected in suicide rates which
are higher than any other area in the UK, and of road accidents
which reflect the long distances driven by many of its
population, as well as other social and health related problems.
is also a growing recognition that indicators of health and
social status fail to capture what it means to live in rural and
remote rural areas, particularly in regard to deprivation and
disadvantage. Despite the rural nature of the area, there are
pockets of acute deprivation which are not generally recognised.
These are areas where symptoms of health and social disadvantage
are most in evidence. This has implications for the allocation
of resources to rural areas.
are provided through an Acute Hospitals Trust and a Primary Care
Trust with Raigmore Hospital recognised as a resource centre.
the challenges of living and providing services in a remote
rural area, Highland offers one of the highest qualities of life
within the United Kingdom and this is reflected in Inverness
being the UK’s fastest growing town. Employment opportunities
are expanding, although many people still work in part-time and
seasonal labour which is reflected in insecure incomes.
table overleaf details the expected population changes between
1997 and 2006, and also highlighted are the population changes
for those aged over 75.