NHS Highland backs plans for new hospital

NHS Highland’s board has given its approval to proposals to build a new community hospital and resource centre in Aviemore.

The issue will now go to cabinet secretary for health and wellbeing Alex Neil for a final decision. If the preferred option is approved then planning for the new facilities and services would begin in earnest, with a formal business case process to be followed.

Significant work would still be required, including agreeing the specification and design of the new building, and purchasing a site. Current estimates are that construction might start around summer 2017 with possible occupation of the new facilities in December 2018.

Meeting in Inverness this week, the NHS Highland board was briefed on the feedback from the formal, three-month public consultation into what was deemed to be a major service change: the development of a new facility for Badenoch & Strathspey and the closure of the area’s two existing hospitals, the Ian Charles in Grantown-on-Spey and St Vincent’s in Kingussie.

The board also noted that the Scottish Health Council had given its independent endorsement of the consultation process.

Nigel Small, director of operations for NHS Highland’s south and mid operational unit, which includes Badenoch & Strathspey, reminded the board in a detailed paper that both existing hospitals were old, in poor condition and not designed to meet modern standards.

In the process of providing sustainable solutions for the future, a local steering group identified the preferred way forward – a new community hospital and resource centre in Aviemore, relocating Aviemore Health Centre and some other services to it and closing the area’s two hospitals – from a shortlist of three options.

The consultation process followed, with more than 50 meetings and events taking place, a mail drop to every household and business in the area and some 500 people taking part.

Mr Small also outlined the process by which the preferred site for the new facility – Aviemore’s Technology Park – was chosen.

And he stressed that, while there was a wide range of support for the preferred option, with a broad consensus in the community and among clinicians and staff members, it was important to recognise that not everyone agreed with it.

That point was picked up by board chair Garry Coutts, in recommending that members endorse the recommendation in support of the preferred option.

He said: “We have heard very loud and clear contrary views from some people and we have to ensure that the concerns of these people do not come into fruition.”

Work is continuing on addressing the travel and access issues raised during the consultation, and NHS Highland will respond to individuals who have raised particular concerns during the consultation process.

It is the board’s intention to now submit the proposal to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing for his consideration.

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