Am Bratach No. 319
May 2018

NHS stalling over north coast hub

Confidence in NHS Highland’s ability to deliver its promised new health and social care facility in Tongue by the target date has been described as “pretty low” among the communities concerned. A recent meeting revealed that little progress had been made over a period of five months, despite assurances that a project manager would be appointed to take the building forward last November.

An NHS Highland spokesperson said: “There will be a project manager appointed but no date has been set yet.”

The new facility is intended to replace the existing Caladh Sona care home in Talmine, run by the Highland Council, and the NHS-operated Melvich Community Care Unit in Portskerra. Both buildings are reputed to be in need of upgrading.

Fears that the £1.5 million capital spend agreed by the Highland Council for a replacement building at Talmine might be jeopardised by the delay have been underscored by recent budget pressures. Although this money was agreed by the council four years ago, it has not been used pending NHS Highland’s “consultation” on amalgamating the two existing facilities.

A Highland Council spokesperson said: “Highland Council has historically committed £1m per annum capital to adult services facilities, and that commitment was re-affirmed in the council’s new capital programme agreed in March 2018. Capital funding remains in place to support adult services investment, and Highland Council is fully supportive of the use of this funding to address the challenge of provision for older people on the north coast [sic].”

NHS Highland added: “This budget has not so far been allocated to any particular projects but, following on from the previous programme, we are working on the basis that North West Sutherland is a priority. The budget for the North West Sutherland project will be drawn from the £1m per year, subject to agreement on the final proposal by the NHS Highland Board and Highland Council.”

NHS Highland said that the site identified next to the old manse in Tongue is already owned by the Highland Council and will be made available for the project. However, a timetable for completion of plans and proceeding to building work is not yet available, although the drawings have been instructed “as a priority”.

Two design options are on the table. The first would accommodate a fifteen-bed care home along with space for other services to be based in the building. All costs for this would have to be found from the £1m per annum.

The second option would be a ten-bed care home with space for other services. In addition, five flats or houses which could be used to provide high levels of tailored support for the tenants would be included in the complex.

NHS Highland says that funding for the housing element of this “could be found from separate housing streams ”.

The spokesperson added: “There have been no decisions made on the final layout of the housing element but arrangements are being made for some
members of the community to visit the Howard Doris Centre in Lochcarron, which already operates a successful model of care home and supported tenancies”.

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