Shetland Man Helps Put Public Voice At The Heart Of Healthcare

by Heather Peebles

Friday, February 28th, 2014

John Dally With a father as a doctor, a mother as a nurse and all three sisters working within the NHS, it was perhaps an inevitable move for a retired teacher to take on a key role to improve the nation’s healthcare. 

After spending 34 years teaching at Whalsay School on Shetland, former Depute Head Teacher John Dally decided to utilise his newly found free time by making a real difference to Healthcare Improvement Scotland through his vital work as a Public Partner.

The role of Public Partner is an integral part of Healthcare Improvement Scotland’s scrutiny ethos, creating the opportunity for members of the public to have a voice in the robust inspection and regulation of NHS facilities, ensuring that healthcare services are sensitive to the requirements and preferences of patients.

John’s work is in part with the Healthcare Environment Inspectorate (HEI), who undertake inspections to acute and community hospitals across NHS Scotland with a particular focus on reducing what’s known as ‘healthcare associated infection’.

John became a Public Partner in 2009 but since 2011, he has played a particularly prominent role in the Older People In Acute Healthcare (OPAH) Inspection programme, which ensures the older generation are treated with the respect, compassion and dignity that they have a right to expect.

As Healthcare Improvement Scotland begins a new recruitment drive for public partners, John has spoken about what it’s like to actively help to improve the quality of healthcare in Scotland.

John, who lives in Shetland and once studied to be a doctor, said: “Many moons ago I embarked on a medical degree. However, as a young 17 year old, I was sadly not mature enough to complete the rigorous course and instead studied and became a teacher.

“I enjoyed a fantastically long and rewarding teaching career, but on retiring I craved a new challenge. With such a medical family, it is no surprise that healthcare has remained close to my heart so I am delighted to now be involved in Healthcare Improvement Scotland.

“By focusing on involving members of the public in the close scrutiny of the NHS, it puts a fresh perspective on traditional inspection exercises allowing the public to voice their opinions.

“Our inspections to ensure hospitals achieve high standards are not only essential to proactively work against the spread of infection but also, importantly, endorse public trust and confidence within the NHS.

“To achieve this we dedicate a great deal of time visiting the wards, engaging with patients face to face in order to gauge their overall opinion of the care they receive and to build upon any improvements they suggest.

“Patients are generally very positive about the treatment and care provided and seem to really appreciate the opportunity to share their experiences and to know their views are being listened to. This, ultimately, makes my work with Healthcare Improvement Scotland so worthwhile.”

Susan Brimelow, HEI Chief Inspector, said: “Volunteers, like John, work with us to ensure the voice of patients and the public is heard in our work to advance the improvement of healthcare in Scotland.

“Each inspection team has at least one trained volunteer member of the public to talk to patients, their relatives and carers. What patients tell us is very important to us so we always include their views in our reports – enhancing the vital role that exists in putting the public interest first.”

Despite his rural residence complete with the challenges of temperamental communication technology, John racks up the miles travelling throughout Scotland for inspections and regularly uses Skype to take part in Healthcare Environment Inspectorate meetings.

Nineteen public partners carry out work within the HEI team alongside inspectors, development managers and project officers all of whom attend pre-inspection meetings before carrying out inspections across the country.

The findings are then discussed collectively before being published online where they are fully accessible to the public at

In addition to his role in HEI, John is also involved in the Scottish Medicines Consortium which aims to provide sound and impartial advice to NHS Boards and their Area Drug and Therapeutics Committees about the clinical and cost-effectiveness of all newly licensed medicines.

Each month John attends a meeting where submissions are discussed and can be tasked to write a summary of Patient Interest Group submissions which he then presents to the group.

To guarantee lay Public Partners like John are fully equipped to deal with the complex issues of their work, Healthcare Improvement Scotland remains committed to implementing support networks and training programmes and attained the Investing in Volunteers quality standard in June 2010.

If you are interested in becoming a public partner, please contact Katy Penman of Healthcare Improvement Scotland for an informal chat on 0141 225 6892 or review:


Private: Heather Peebles

Based as a PR in Edinburgh, Heather Peebles is a highly-valued member of the team at Holyrood PR. Her work with the Scottish public relations consultancy sees her advising clients in healthcare, construction, renewables and logistics. As well as delivering numerous successful PR campaigns, she is also experienced in crisis PR and reputation management.

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