New Belford: Progress

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This week the Lochaber Times publishes the first in a new monthly series of columns from NHS Highland – to be titled ‘New Belford: Progress’ – aimed at keeping readers informed on progress with the project to replace the Belford Hospital in Fort William.

We are delighted to be able to report on real progress in relation to the redesign of
health services in Lochaber, writes Senior Project Manager, Heather Cameron.

This has been under discussion for a long time but we are sure that people will be
relieved to hear that significant progress has been made recently with plans for real
improvements over the coming three to four years, chief among which is a
replacement Belford Hospital on the Blàr Mòr.

The Belford Hospital in Fort William. NO-F04-Belford-Hospital.jpg
The ageing Belford Hospital in Fort William.

With the support of the Lochaber Times, we will be bringing you this monthly column
to explain what we will be doing to bring the new hospital to fruition.

For any significant investment, NHS Boards need to submit a business case in three
stages: Initial Agreement, Outline Business Case and Full Business Case. Following
approval of the Full Business Case we can start construction.

The Initial Agreement is now complete and with Scottish Government’s Capital
Investment Group for consideration and, hopefully, approval.

This first stage of the business case focuses on services rather than buildings, and
NHS Highland has worked with staff, public stakeholders and other public sector
partners to develop a new and improved service model, designed to deliver as many
services as possible, as locally as possible.

As well as service data, we sought feedback from patients and input from the
Lochaber Stakeholder Group to understand what matters to people about their
hospital services.

This information was then fed into a series of workshops held with staff working in the
hospital and in the community, including social care, primary care (GPs and other
healthcare delivered in the community) and the ambulance service. The workshops
took a three-stage approach to developing a new and improved service model for the
new hospital.

The first workshop looked at what services a Rural General Hospital (RGH) should
aim to deliver: the Core RGH model. This session included staff from our other
RGHs, Caithness General Hospital and Lorn and Isles Hospital in Oban, as well as staff
from Raigmore and community colleagues, to confirm a common understanding of the RGH role.

The Core RGH model keeps all the services currently being provided at the Belford and uses the opportunities of a new building to further develop them.

The second workshop then looked at which services might be best delivered in a
community setting such as a health centre rather than a hospital; and the third
session explored the ambitions of the clinical team to do more, considering what
services might be able to be delivered in an RGH in the future.

The outcome of these workshops was very positive. While it was agreed there are
limitations to what services can safely be carried out in an RGH, there was a clear
and enthusiastic aim from staff and community alike to deliver as many services as
possible, locally.

The output from the workshops was then put to a group of community and NHS
stakeholders, including community councillors, who compared different service
options and reduced these to two options which will be further explored in the next
stage, the Outline Business Case.

Both options will operate to the Core RGH model with introduction of an Intensive
Rehabilitation Service, and for the second option, an increase in elective surgery.

There’s a lot of work to do to detail what these services will mean in practice and
assess what space we’ll need in the new hospital to deliver them, but this work is
ongoing now and will take us through the next year to the next business case stage.

We will continue to engage with communities across Lochaber in designing the new
services and building: representatives from the community sit on the much-valued
Lochaber Stakeholder Group who meet monthly, and two community representatives
represent the Stakeholder Group on our Project Team: John Hutchison and Patricia

We will explain our thinking and provide regular progress updates in future editions of
the Lochaber Times.

Next month, we plan to focus on what a Rural General Hospital does and the services it will deliver.

We also want to hear your views: you can get in touch with our project team on , or contact the NHS Highland feedback
team on or 01463 705997.