New Belford progress: second update

Steve Gilbert, consultant in anaesthetics and pain medicine, author of the latest update on progress to replace the Belford Hospital. NO F22 Dr Steve Gilbert 02
Steve Gilbert, consultant in anaesthetics and pain medicine, author of the latest update on progress to replace the Belford Hospital. NO F22 Dr Steve Gilbert 02

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In the second in our series of articles aimed at keeping readers up to date with progress on the replacement of the Belford Hospital, Steve Gilbert, consultant in anaesthetics and pain medicine, sheds more light on what has been happening recently.

‘I have been working as a consultant in anaesthetics and pain medicine at the Belford since December 2020 and in January this year, I was appointed clinical lead for the hospital.

‘The hospital has a long history. It was first built in 1865 on the site where Invernevis House now stands. A prefab extension was built in 1893, but burnt down seven years later, following which a more permanent extension was built.

The original hospital was again extended in 1928 and the current incarnation of the Belford was opened in 1965. It was a modern hospital at the time, designed for the
future, but it is showing its age now and is only kept going by the ingenuity and skill of our fantastic maintenance team.

The Belford is one of six designated rural general hospitals in Scotland and was at the forefront of developing the concept.

A rural general hospital is defined by the Scottish Government as a hospital which, for geographical reasons, is staffed by consultants in medicine, surgery and anaesthetics, as well as nurses and allied health professionals, providing a general medical and surgical service and able to provide intensive care for critically ill patients until they are able to be safely moved by the emergency medical retrieval service to a larger hospital.

Although the population the hospital serves in Lochaber is smaller and scattered over a wide area, there is a strong commitment to maintain a consultant-led service and rural general hospital status.

The planning process described in the initial agreement has compared five possible service models for the new Belford.

These range from option one: do nothing – a necessary baseline – to option five where only
minor surgery and day case treatment would be provided and patients would have to travel for inpatient care.

After workshops and meetings of staff and local stakeholders, options three and four
were clearly identified as the preferred options.

Option three keeps the current medical and surgical services and includes a transformation in the rehabilitation service.

This would provide intensive multi-disciplinary rehab on a day case basis and an
inpatient service where required. The aim will be to support patients to return to living at home and recognises the challenges as a result of the lack of a local community hospital and limited care home provision.

Option four, in addition to the above, expands the range of surgical procedures that could be carried out at the Belford and would seek to provide access to a wider range of visiting medical and surgical services locally, where safe to do so.

We will be giving more details about these options and what they will mean to you in future articles.

I believe we can be confident the services the Belford can provide will be improved rather than downgraded.

NHS Highland plans to have a stand at the Caol Community Event on Saturday June 4 where we would love to hear your views. You can also contact us via the NHS Highland Feedback team Nhshighland.feedback@nhs.scot or via our project email address on
nhsh.nhshighlandestatesprojects@nhs.scot.

 

CAPTION:

Steve Gilbert, consultant in anaesthetics and pain medicine, author of the latest update on progress to replace the Belford Hospital.

NO F22 Dr Steve Gilbert 02