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Grantown waits on health secretary decision over health centre project

By Tom Ramage

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A united effort in Strathspey has forced the Scottish Government’s Health Secretary Neil Gray to reconsider the controversial suspension of Grantown’s health centre upgrade.

Mr Gray has been left in no doubt over the fury caused by the deferment of the £400,000 to £500,000 project after the meeting last Wednesday - a virtual face-to-face with local campaigners which Mr Gray would have preferred not to have had.

Strathspey MSP Fergus Ewing, regional MSPs Rhoda Grant (Scottish Labour) and Edward Mountain (Scottish Conservatives), Grantown GP practice representatives Kathy Cockman (general manager) and Dr Al Miles; Richard MacDonald, NHS Highland Director of Estates, Facilities and Capital Planning and newly appointed Chief Executive of NHS Highland, Fiona Davies, were in attendance

The campaign group issued a joint statement to the Strathy yesterday after their discussions with the Minister.

It stated: “Mr Gray’s office first suggested a meeting on April 18 but we all immediately sought a much earlier one, arguing that if the meeting did not take place until a month it would be too late.

“That would have meant the contractors, Morrisons, would have to withdraw from the site, remove their work cabins and materials - the materials for the bulk of the remainder of the work to be done, which had been pre-purchased.

“This would inevitably result in extra costs.

“Moreover, Morrisons could not wait for much longer than a couple of weeks before they would have to abandon the project for now.

“Abortive costs would arise and may still arise..”

The protest produced the required result, the group said: “Happily, Mr Gray responded by offering the meeting on Wednesday, March 27.

“That was much appreciated.”

Mr Gray noted the strength of the opposition to the suspension of works after being informed of the packed public meeting on March 7 opposing the halt to the works.

Around 300 people had attended in support of local GPs and staff who started the campaign after the shock announcement by NHS Highland.

This followed the Scottish Government confirming a two-year pause on all NHS capital projects because of Westminster funding cuts.

The campaigners statement read: “At the meeting the discussion focussed on individual items giving rise to additional costs.

“The impact on services was also discussed as well. The main extra costs arise from having to continue to use the Ian Charles Hospital, which as an early Victorian Building is no longer fit for purpose, and which also is earmarked for a crucial housing development to be taken forward by the community with the aim of it being available for housing for key workers.”

Grantown GP Alan Miles also reminded the Health Secretary that the project was promised back in 2015 as part of the wider reconfiguration of services in Badenoch and Strathspey.

This included the closure of Ian Charles at Grantown and Kingussie’s

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