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RHODA GRANT: Our NHS buildings need modernising

By Rhoda Grant

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With a few exceptions, the NHS estate across the region is generally older with many facilities being outdated.
With a few exceptions, the NHS estate across the region is generally older with many facilities being outdated.

The passing of Easter earlier this month signalled longer evenings and with any luck, warmer weather. Springtime is a season for new beginnings and hope springs eternal.

In this vein, after a cross-party campaign and significant local support and strength of feeling, the Scottish Government have signalled that the Grantown Medical Practice refurbishment can continue after initially pausing the construction, which is at an advanced stage. This is great news.

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I want to thank all of those who were involved in the campaign, as well as those who I worked alongside to push for this capital project to continue. It was reassuring that the case of Grantown, where pausing the capital project may have cost more in the long term rather than finishing as planned, signals a measured approach where capital projects can be judged on a case-by-case basis.

Following this decision, my hope for the coming weeks and months is a rethink from the Scottish Government on their decision to pause all NHS capital projects, regardless of circumstance. This decision disproportionately affects the Highlands.

With a few exceptions, the NHS estate across the region is generally older with many facilities being outdated. There have been extensive and consistent calls for improvement long before the Scottish Government announced this pause. Applying a blanket stop to funding for all redesigns and upgrades is inappropriate when the dire need to improve dated facilities is plain to see.

I understand that the Scottish Government have limited funding available and must make tough decisions but for too long, the Highlands have been given a raw deal.

I have urged the cabinet secretary for health to publish a timeline on when the capital spending review will be complete and to provide clarity as to what projects can continue. The clocks may have gone forward but time for progress has already passed, our NHS buildings need modernising; upgrades are long overdue and must not be allowed to slip further. Although hope springs eternal, patience is running out on a government that has failed to keep promises on finishing capital projects across the region.

In other developments, it is disappointing to learn that VisitScotland plans to close all information centres within the next two years.

Tourism is an important part of the Highland economy, and many families, businesses, and communities benefit from income generated by referrals from the centres. The welcoming and knowledgeable local staff make a huge impression on tourists who may be travelling for the journey rather than the destination, as is the case with many road trips across the region. Highland hospitality is a long-held tradition that is underpinned by a warm welcome – something that is harder to achieve on an app or website.

I have appealed to the Scottish Government, who partially fund VisitScotland to intervene and ensure that there is an in-person experience at these centres for our visitors.

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