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Frustration over stalled plan for new Keith Health Centre

By Lewis McBlane

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THE lack of progress towards a "desperately needed" and "top priority" new Keith Health Centre has been criticised.

Lochhead and Ross at odds over why a new Keith Health Centre has stalled.
Lochhead and Ross at odds over why a new Keith Health Centre has stalled.

However, politicians are split over the cause of the delay and the rightful target of frustration.

Health and Social Care Moray was given the green light to prepare an Initial Agreement, the first step in securing Scottish Government cash for Keith Health Centre, in February 2019.

In a letter sent to Moray MP Douglas Ross, outgoing health secretary Michael Matheson MSP said NHS Grampian had not submitted any plans for a new health centre to the Scottish Government.

Linda Gorn, chairwoman of Keith Health Centre's Patient Participation Group (PPG), said that during a meeting with staff from Moray Health and Social Care (MHSC) last summer she was told there "will be no new hospital".

She was also told that the Initial Agreement (IA), the first step towards a new health centre, had been completed and was being sent to NHS Grampian.

Mrs Gorn plans to write to the health board, asking why the IA has not yet been sent to the Scottish Government.

Her letter will also seek assurance that the Turner Memorial Hospital will be kept open.

"There will be no new hospital, the Initial Agreement had been completed at that stage and was being sent to NHS Grampian for approval and then forwarded to the Scottish Government," she said.

"I will be writing to NHS Grampian as the Chair of Keith Health Centre PPG to find out why this has not happened.

"At that same meeting we were assured that Turner Hospitals future was secure.

"We will be making sure that this is the case."

Mr Ross said he was “deeply concerned” by the lack of progress in securing new facilities, for which locals have been campaigning for more than a decade.

He added that the Scottish Government had showed "absolutely no urgency" towards providing "desperately needed" facilities for the people of Keith.

However, Moray MSP Richard Lochhead argued that an ongoing slowdown of Scottish capital projects came due to funding cuts from Westminster and were not the Scottish Government's fault.

Mr Lochhead said he had "long supported the campaign for a new health centre" and has been pushing NHS Grampian to make the new health centre a "top priority".

He added that Mr Ross should put his efforts into lobbying his fellow Conservatives in the UK Government to increase the amount of cash available.

Mr Ross said: "There is absolutely no urgency whatsoever from the SNP Government, despite their warm words in the past.

“I just cannot understand how this is all taking so long, despite NHS Grampian assuring me that a ‘new health and care facility for Keith remains a priority for Health and Social Care Moray and NHS Grampian’.”

“That is in stark contrast to what the SNP Scottish Government are saying.

"The SNP can’t blame Westminster for this. Health is fully devolved and under their control.

"They must finally deliver for the people of Keith and the surrounding areas.

"We don’t need more excuses, we finally need action.”

Mr Lochhead said: “As local MSP I have long supported the campaign for a new health centre for Keith and have pressed NHS Grampian to ensure plans for a new primary care facility in Keith is a top priority," Mr Lochhead said.

“Mr Ross is correct of course to say that health care is devolved, however, he knows full well that many capital projects across Scotland have had to be paused after his Conservative UK Government slashed the Scottish Government’s capital budget.

“If Moray’s Tory MP really wants to see local healthcare facilities improve, he should be putting pressure on his UK Government colleagues to make funds available to the Scottish Government so we can invest in infrastructure locally and across the country.”

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