THE chairman of NHS Borders has stepped down after eight years at the helm.

John Raine reached the end of his maximum term at the weekend.

In a message to staff, he said: "Contrasting my time here with time in the chair of health trusts in England I am well able to say: 'Borders is Best'.

“I see the excellent results of your work in the meetings I attend, the reports I receive, the statistics that pass across my desk, and in the many letters from patients, carers and families that provide the real testimony to your endeavours.

“We have big financial challenges like so many parts of the NHS across the UK. But we also have some of the best performing services in Scotland. I believe timely access to good quality care is what Borders people want most. That is what you provide.”

In a personal letter of thanks, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Jeane Freeman paid tribute to Mr Raine’s “strong leadership” and focus on “recognising and valuing the efforts of staff”.

The letter to John concluded by saying: “You should be proud of everything you have accomplished during your time as Chair of Borders NHS Board and more widely during your 21 years in NHS non-executive roles.”

Karen Hamilton, who is vice chairwoman of the board, has been appointed to the top role until a permanent appointment is made.

That decision is down to the government's Public Appointments Committee.

Mrs Hamilton has 25 years of experience in adult care and social work, starting in care services in Aberdeen where she gained a diploma in social work from Robert Gordon’s University.

Since then she has had a varied career –progressing to senior management positions with both Moray and Highland councils and was head of service for care at home development with Highland.

Mrs Hamilton has been actively involved in community council matters and has been a non-executive director of NHS Borders since 2013.

Speaking about her new role, Karen said: "I look forward immensely to holding the reins as interim chair of NHS Borders and to continue the excellent work of my predecessor."