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Hopes are high that the meeting today (Thursday) of the reconvened steering group for the project to replace the ageing Belford Hospital in Fort William, will see a a firm timetable outlined for each project stage up to the construction of the new hospital itself.
New NHS Highland chief executive Pam Dudek is expected to set out timelines and who will be leading the project internally for the health board.
Long-term campaigner and acting chairman of Kilmallie Community Council, John Hutchison, a member of the steering group, told the Lochaber Times ahead of today’s session: ‘It’s fair to say that following the fresh approach highlighted at the November meeting of the steering group, we are eagerly looking forward to this one, anticipating the review of the project management structure, with clear senior leadership, together with a firm timetable for each project stage up to the construction of the new hospital.’
Local constituency MSP Kate Forbes added: ‘I appreciate that there has been considerable and understandable frustration with the pace of progress on building a new Belford Hospital. I am pleased that the management of NHS Highland have agreed to get to grips with the process.
‘In the last few weeks, they have met with me and some others, as well as attending the reconvened steering group. I hope that further progress has been made and they will be able to set out more concrete plans soon.’
Shadow Health Secretary and Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron commented: ‘It is crucial that we maintain momentum, and move rapidly to a timetable which reflects the input from community consultation and delivers a truly capable hospital facility, and urgently.
‘As we know, the demands and expectations being placed on the NHS are growing ever greater, so that means the new hospital, and the wider health and social care service which it supports, must have the flexibility to cope with that changing demand, and deliver the resources that our NHS staff need in order to give local people the best possible treatment.’
Asked to comment on what topics might be on the agenda for the meeting, Louise Bussell, NHS Highland’s Chief Officer for Community Services, said: ‘We are pleased to be holding another steering group prior to Christmas as we had hoped to do, with a number of senior leaders attending in order to give the feedback we had promised.’