NHS Highland Capital Funding (Grantown Health Centre)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 28 March 2024.

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Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

1. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will reconsider its decision to pause capital funding for NHS Highland in respect of completion of the refurbishment of Grantown health centre, in light of reports that these works were nearly completed and that the pause of the contract may lead to additional costs in excess of the notional sum saved. (S6O-03284)

Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Scottish National Party

Based on the latest forecast, our block grant for capital is expected to reduce in real terms by 8.7 per cent by 2027-28, which is a cumulative loss of more than £1.3 billion. That has had an inevitable effect and led to difficult decisions, in common with all health capital investment projects that are in development. Phase 2 of the Grantown health centre project has been paused at this stage until the necessary capital funding becomes available.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

The cabinet secretary is aware of the cross-party campaign that is supported by me, Edward Mountain and Rhoda Grant—it is a non-political campaign. The cost of the project is £2.4 million but, unlike every other project in NHS Highland, it is nearly completed. Of the £2.4 million, costs of £2 million have already been incurred. The materials are on site, waiting to be installed. However, if the decision to pause is not overturned within the next three weeks, abortive costs will be incurred, which, together with the running costs of the old Victorian Ian Charles building that was to be decommissioned, will mean that the overall cost will far exceed the notional savings.

Will the cabinet secretary, whom we met yesterday and whose willingness to listen was much appreciated, seriously reconsider, given that a small sum of £400,000 would help to save this vital project that was promised to the community nearly a decade ago?

Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Scottish National Party

I thank Fergus Ewing for his question. I am grateful for his engagement and that of Edward Mountain, Rhoda Grant and the Grantown-on-Spey medical practice in NHS Highland, all of whom, as Fergus Ewing said, met me yesterday to discuss the situation. I am grateful for the further information that was provided by all the participants in the meeting. I gave a commitment yesterday that I would, without prejudice and without giving a commitment, consider the position and the potentially exceptional situation that exists there. I committed to coming back to those who were in the meeting as soon as I could.

Photo of Edward Mountain Edward Mountain Conservative

I, too, am pleased to be working with Rhoda Grant and Fergus Ewing. The 2015 redesign of healthcare in Strathspey and Badenoch required the closure of two hospitals and an upgrade of two general practitioner practices, including the Grantown practice. The non-completion of the Grantown medical centre, which was the final piece in the jigsaw, will leave this Government and NHS Highland without one shred of credibility in Speyside. I ask the cabinet secretary to reflect on that when he makes his decision.

Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Scottish National Party

I thank Edward Mountain for reiterating a point that he raised with me yesterday. Of course, that will be part of the consideration in this case, and I look to take a swift decision—either positive or negative—as quickly as possible.