Shetland is well provisioned for the health and social care needs of its small but vibrant community. If you're thinking about moving to the isles, here's an overview of the health services available.

Health services in Shetland

  • Health centres

    Shetland has 10 GP surgeries across the isles, and although certain areas are remote, almost everyone has a GP within a reasonable distance.

    The Lerwick Health Centre is the largest surgery, serving the town’s residents. In addition to GPs, the Lerwick Health Centre utilises an innovative system of Advanced Nursing Practitioners – senior nurses who can deal with minor or straight-forward medical issues on the day, freeing up GPs’ time for more complex cases.

    The South Mainland is served by the Levenwick Medical Practice, while over on the Westside there are surgeries in Scalloway, Walls and Bixter. The north of Shetland is provided for by the surgeries in Brae and Hillswick, while residents of Yell and Fetlar, Unst and Whalsay have surgeries on their own islands.

    Smaller islands, such as Fetlar and Fair Isle, do not have their own surgeries, but do have nursing provision and residents can be registered at the closest GP surgery.

  • Hospitals

    There is one hospital, the Gilbert Bain, on Lerwick’s South Road. It is across the road from the Lerwick Health Centre, with bus stops just outside and a 156-space car park.

    The Gilbert Bain serves the entire of Shetland with an A&E department and medical, surgical and maternity wards. It also has dental suites, and a drop-in sexual health clinic on Monday evenings.

    While outpatient procedures and minor surgery can be performed in Shetland, serious or complex cases are often sent to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary or the Aberdeen Maternity Hospital before returning to Shetland for recuperation and further treatment. If you do have to travel to the mainland for treatment, the NHS will usually pay for the patient’s travel, but not always for anyone accompanying.atM

  • Maternity services

    Pregnant women are recommended to contact the Maternity Unit at the Gilbert Bain directly, on +44 (0)1595 743012 when they arrive in Shetland. This service is available 24/7. A midwife will then arrange for antenatal care.

    Women who have no medical conditions and have uncomplicated pregnancies deliver at the Gilbert Bain Hospital Maternity Unit in Lerwick. All other deliveries are at the Aberdeen Maternity Hospital.

  • Family healthcare

    For new parents and young children, there is a health visitor service that will help you look after your little ones’ health and give them the best start in life. The health visitors carry out a range of duties including ante-and-post-natal visits, breastfeeding education, child health clinics, help with common baby issues such as sleeping or weaning, parenting skills, and even help with housing benefits and financial advice. Health visitor appointments can be arranged through local GP surgeries, and they can be met either at the surgery or in your own home.

    For older children, there is the School Nursing Service that looks after the physical, emotional and mental health of pupils. The nurses perform head lice checks and vaccinations, and also provide advice on sexual health, diet, stress, sleep issues, relationship problems and self-harm.

    The school nurses also run drop-in clinics in schools or, alternatively, appointments can be booked via the school office. The service is completely confidential unless the nurse feels that a pupil is at risk of harm, in which case they will tell the pupil who they need to inform and why.

  • Mental health services

    NHS Shetland’s Mental Health Team, based in the Lerwick Health Centre, run a number of mental health services that are accessed by referral from a GP. These include psychological services, the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, psychiatric therapy, as well as memory assessments and dementia services. For more information contact +44 (0)1595 743006 or email

    Mind Your Head is a local mental health charity located on Market Street in Lerwick. You can self-refer into this service. There is a range of support, from group-based activities to one-to-one support.

  • Community care

    Shetland has excellent social care services, including residential care, respite and day services. Community support services are based on the ethos of person-centred solutions that increase independence and reduce intrusion into private lives. Visit the Community Care section of the SIC website for more information.

  • Pharmacies

    There are three pharmacies in Lerwick that dispense prescriptions and sell over-the-counter medications: Boots on Commercial Street, Freefield Pharmacy on Burgh Road and Laing’s Pharmacy on Kantersted Road. The Gilbert Bain Hospital also has a dispensing pharmacy.

    Outside of Lerwick, there is the Scalloway Pharmacy and the Brae Pharmacy. Residents further afield can pick up their prescribed medicine from their local health centre. Or, in some cases, have it arranged to be sent to a local shop for collection. For a full list of pharmacies, visit NHS inform.

  • Dental services

    There are NHS dental practices based on the Mainland of Shetland in Lerwick and Brae and clinics on the islands of Whalsay and Yell (which services the North Isles). For a full list of dental provision in Shetland and contact details, visit the NHS Shetland website.

  • Opticians

    There are two optician services in Lerwick, both located on Commercial Street: ICARE Shetland and Specsavers.