Up­date sought on new Fort hospi­tal

The Oban Times - - Lochaber Times -

LOCHABER MSP Kate Forbes will to­day ask the Scot­tish Govern­ment for an up­date on plans to build to a new Belford Hospi­tal.

Ms Forbes will ad­dress the cham­ber at First Min­is­ter’s ques­tions this af­ter­noon (Thurs­day June 29).

The MSP told the Lochaber Times she is com­mit­ted to ‘ru­ral-proof­ing’ the Fort Wil­liam hospi­tal as laid out by the then Health Sec­re­tary, and now First Min­is­ter of Scot­land, Ni­cola Stur­geon, al­most 10 years ago.

She said: ‘ The then Health Sec­re­tary, Ni­cola Stur­geon, choose six hos­pi­tals in Scot­land’s re­mote and ru­ral ar­eas to be­come spe­cial, en­hanced Ru­ral Gen­eral Hos­pi­tals al­most 10 years ago. The Belford was one of them, and it was a piv­otal mo­ment for health­care in Lochaber. Con­cerns that plans to re­place the 50-year-old hospi­tal had fallen silent were raised by the com­mu­nity in Jan­uary. A steer­ing group has been set up and the NHS says ‘sig­nif­i­cant back­ground work’ has taken place. How­ever read­ers have con­tacted the

Lochaber Times won­der­ing why no ‘vis­i­ble’ progress had been made.

Now Ms Forbes wants to see the govern­ment build on what Ms Stur­geon set out in 2008.

She said: ‘It is about build­ing a sta­teof-the-art new hospi­tal in Fort Wil­liam, min­imis­ing travel to Raig­more and at­tract­ing the best doc­tors, nurses and other health­care pro­fes­sions. It is about the growth of Fort Wil­liam, with new jobs and new homes. We have the rare op­por­tu­nity to shape our health­care in Lochaber for decades to come and that process must be guided by a de­sire to see the West High­lands thrive, pros­per and grow.’

A spokesper­son from NHS High­land has said work was ‘on­go­ing’, with a steer­ing group and project team es­tab­lished.

‘This is con­tribut­ing to the de­vel­op­ment of a for­mal ini­tial agree­ment which will go to High­land Health and So­cial Care Part­ner­ship Com­mit­tee, NHS High­land Board and then to the Scot­tish Govern­ment Cap­i­tal In­vest­ment Group and Scot­tish Min­is­ters. The cur­rent timescale is that the ini­tial agree­ment will be com­plete and submitted by sum­mer 2018 and that the build­ing will be op­er­a­tional in 2020/21. A more ro­bust time­line will be de­vel­oped as part of the ini­tial agree­ment process.’

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