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Highland Council Welcomes Change in Direction for West Highland Health Services Project

2nd December 2003

5,900 people - three quarters of all households wrote letters.

The Highland Council has warmly welcomed a decision by NHS Highland to rethink plans for future acute hospital services in the Belford Hospital, Fort William.

As a result of unprecedented representations from throughout Lochaber, the Board has agreed that the next phase of the West Highland Project will bring together a Solutions Group, which will involve key parties to agree the best possible solution for sustainable and affordable acute services for the Belford.

Local GP and Vice Convener of The Highland Council Dr Michael Foxley was asked to address the Highland NHS Board during their discussion in Inverness today (Tuesday). He suggested that the parties work together constructively to positively resolve issues.

He said: "I very much welcome the change in direction by the Highland NHS Board, who clearly recognise the strength of opposition in Lochaber to any proposed downgrading of the Belford Hospital. It is quite remarkable that 5,900 people - three-quarters of the households in the area - took the time and trouble to write to the NHS Highland Board to voice their concerns. I am also pleased that the Board noted that our Lochaber Medical Community Group have done a lot of work on consultant numbers, rotas and training.

"We are happy to work with the Highland NHS Board as well as with other agencies especially the Highland Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, to address these key issues which affect the Belford and will be of benefit to Wick, Oban and Stornoway. It is essential to retain 24/7 consultant led services."

He stressed that without a consultant-led service in rural hospitals, the Highlands would fail to attract inward investment and hasten depopulation and the decline of our communities. Ultimately the Scottish Executive would need to address this.

Councillor Olwyn Macdonald, Lochaber Area Convener of The Highland Council said, "I am pleased that we have moved away from sitting in judgement on options. The new approach will see closer working together to solve the problems that are facing us. I remain firm in my view that we need a 24 hour, consultant-led, acute hospital at the Belford Hospital."

 

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