Shaping the delivery of healthcare with my RGU degree

The MSc Strategic Service Planning and Delivery in Health and Social Care at RGU places emphasis on planning, estates, workforce, finances and use of technologies within the health and social care environment. RGU student Lucy Flaws discusses her career journey and how studying the course will benefit her in her role to make a real contribution to the delivery of healthcare in Shetland.

About me

My name is Lucy Flaws. I’m very lucky to live in Shetland with my husband, 4-year-old lass and 9-month-old boy. Shetland is a stunning and amazing place to live, work and study. I grew up in Inverness, studied Physiotherapy in Glasgow, then landed in Shetland for my first “real” physio job with the NHS in 2010.


I worked in physiotherapy for 5 years before moving to a job in Health Improvement, frustrated that my work in physiotherapy was only touching a small part of people’s lives/problems. After 5 years in Health Improvement, I’ve recently moved to a role as the Planning and Performance Officer for the local Integration Joint Board (IJB), based in the Public Health Team.

I am also currently studying Strategic Service Planning and Delivery in Health and Social Care at RGU to gain some additional knowledge within my field.

What does your role in planning and performance involve?

I went on maternity leave after 3 months in post, so I’m still sussing out what it involves!

In this role, I’m looking at the bigger picture. Essentially, I try to understand how we can best support the people of Shetland to live well, help them take opportunities and be part of their community. This process involves looking at the strategic plan and analysing what we need to do to achieve our goals. I do so by investigating how services are managing against government targets and their own expectations, and helping to find out what will make things better for patients, staff and the community.

The role requires lots of communication and networking. Indeed, I need to make the most of all our brilliant assets and expertise – our staff, patients and other local organisations and communities – to make life better in Shetland. 

Why did you decide to study a postgraduate degree in Strategic Service Planning and Delivery?

I’ve recently started a new role as a Planning and Performance Officer, after a winding career through physiotherapy, Health Improvement and public health. I have learned all of my leadership, planning and change experience along the way.

While I am delighted with my new job, I feared being a bit out of my depth. As such, I thought it was time to add some theory and background to my experience. That’s why I decided to further my education and study Strategic Service Planning and Delivery in Health and Social Care at RGU.

I was a bit worried about starting to study. With the course starting the week my second child was due, the timing could not have been worse. However, I had a helpful discussion with my course and module leaders, who were all really approachable and understanding. Everyone was willing to work together to look at options and support me during this time.

How will the master’s degree help you in your job?

Despite having various bits of work experience in improvement projects, communication between departments and looking at the bigger picture to move things forward, I am missing some foundation knowledge. The course will give me an insight into other areas such as finance, facilities, and organisational development. I think this will allow me to have helpful and critical discussions with colleagues.

I really want to make a difference in my new role. And, while I don’t need to be an expert in all these areas, I need enough understanding to be confident to question the status quo. Indeed, challenging colleagues who are the experts will help us come up with some creative solutions. When I hear “this is just the way it’s done” I want to be able to back up my “why?” with more helpful insights and ideas.

I am now two modules into my Strategic Service Planning and Delivery in Health and Social Care course at RGU. The learning so far has really made me reflect on how I will approach things from now on. I obtained lots of practical tools and ideas to utilise once I’m back at work.

What has been the highlight of the Strategic Service Planning and Delivery course so far?

The highlight of the course so far has been the Leading Organisations and Change module, which was run through Aberdeen Business School. I found that looking at things from that different perspective really gave me the chance to step back and be more objective about projects I’ve been involved in, and things to come. It definitely challenged my thinking. Moreover, having the opportunity to discuss with peers at tutorials, with our tutor giving the expert view from a business perspective made for some really thought-provoking discussions. 

Riverside Building, home of RGU’s Aberdeen Business School

Have you encountered any challenges during the course?

The course started the week my son was born, so that first module was pretty challenging! I knew studying with a new-born and a toddler was going to be difficult. But there are always challenges to studying alongside work. And, while I had little ones to look after, my peers on the course were in the midst of managing teams and working through the pandemic, so maybe I had the easier ride.

Studying with a baby

Having the opportunity to learn fully online has been brilliant for me. Living with my family in Shetland means any other mode of study would have meant drastic changes or travel south. I’m still learning to be more organised though. My usual style as an undergraduate student would be a bit last minute. With so many other things to juggle now, that just isn’t an option anymore.

Getting through that first module working in 20 to 30-minute blocks while feeding or looking after the sleeping baby in the carrier made focusing really tough. Having to learn to write in an academic style – still a work in progress – has been a real challenge. But the Study Skills pages have been helpful, and my tutors have been really supportive. Having a little more time and a little more sleep has definitely made module 2 easier. I’m getting used to the juggle and trying to do things as soon as they’re available.

Studying has been really positive for me while off on maternity leave. I know it wouldn’t be for everyone, and I’m very privileged to be able to get this time off.

Having something to challenge my brain that is personal to me and connects me to the outside world has been really helpful in keeping my identity beyond being a mum (which I absolutely love too, of course!).

Lucy Flaws – Strategic Service Planning and Delivery student

The small cohort has been great despite not having the chance to actually meet in person yet. Our online chats during tutorials and beyond makes me feel like we are a supportive little team working our way through this together.

Who do you think the Strategic Service Planning and Delivery course would be suited to?

I think the course would be helpful for anyone working within Health and Social Care. Probably someone who is from a team lead/lower management level and up. I wish I had this knowledge and these skills when working as a team lead in health improvement.

The role I’m in now involves supporting other people to plan services and looking at the bigger picture. As a service lead, the course would be incredibly beneficial for seeing how your service fits among others, how to make helpful changes, and get the most from your organisation.

What advice would you give to someone considering applying for the course?

Have a real think about how you’ll plan out your time. This isn’t learning you can just skim through, but it is absolutely worth giving time to. 

Discuss with tutors/programme lead before you get going if you have any concerns. Before starting, I spoke about my impending baby situation with the staff. Taking the time to discuss with someone outside of my immediate circle really helped in making a decision.

If you are in a relevant role, discuss with your organisation if they would give you some time off to study. For example, what I’m learning at RGU will have a massive impact on how I do things in the workplace. Indeed, I think it will make me a more effective and efficient team member. So, if you’re in a similar position, it would be a good investment for them!

Lucy Flaws

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