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Caithness campaigners say it's a step in the right direction as design team is appointed for £55m care villages

By Alan Hendry

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CHAT chairman Ron Gunn outside the Dunbar Hospital in Thurso. Picture: Robert MacDonald / Northern Studios
CHAT chairman Ron Gunn outside the Dunbar Hospital in Thurso. Picture: Robert MacDonald / Northern Studios

The appointment of a design team for the community hub and care villages in Wick and Thurso has been described by local campaigners as "another step in the right direction".

Three leading consultant firms have been brought in by Hub North Scotland, which is working with NHS Highland on the £55 million project which involves reshaping health and social care services across Caithness.

Architecture and engineering company NORR will join the team along with engineering and structural experts Rybka and Waterman to work alongside NHS Highland and Hub North Scotland staff. The design team has already begun work with an initial workshop following the decision to choose sites at Noss in Wick and the Dunbar Hospital in Thurso for the new community hubs.

Graham McCorkindale, Hub North Scotland’s project director, said: “All three appointees have significant expertise and will make a major contribution in helping deliver a service redesign which will benefit the entire community of Caithness.”

Louise Bussell, director of nursing and senior responsible officer for the Caithness redesign, said: “We are delighted to welcome NORR, Rybka and Waterman to the team to design these much-needed facilities which are key enablers to the delivery of more sustainable services in Caithness.

"These two hubs represent an investment of over £55 million, and are part of a wider programme of transformational change to adult health and social care services in the area.”

Ron Gunn, chairman of Caithness Health Action Team, said: "We welcome this announcement and see it as another step in the right direction.

"I have been involved in this project since the very beginning and have seen the plans for the community hubs develop into what has been described as care health villages, which, when finished, will offer a wide range of health-related services for patients and the public.

"The design of the hubs will be crucial and I hope the appointed team does what the design team did for the new hospital in Orkney – involve and consult at every stage with all of the staff that will be actually using the facilities."

A site next to Noss Primary School was chosen for the new community hub in Wick.
A site next to Noss Primary School was chosen for the new community hub in Wick.

The community hub and care village sites will include extra care housing, which NHS Highland describes as a first for Caithness, as well as bringing together services and teams currently located in multiple sites across Wick and Thurso.

The hubs will feature community and residential care beds, GP practice, outpatient consulting, therapy space and a base for community integrated teams.

The design team will also look at sustainable energy sources as part of the drive to meet net-zero carbon targets. NORR and Rybka are already working on NHS Orkney's decarbonisation programme and will use that experience for their Caithness work.

Hub North Scotland also delivered the award-winning Badenoch and Strathspey Community Hospital in Aviemore and the Broadford Hospital on Skye for NHS Highland.

The service redesign also includes the redevelopment of Caithness General Hospital, which is being delivered by Balfour Beatty through the Health Facilities Scotland framework.

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