Home   News   Article

Pause on £80 million Caithness redesign scheme 'totally and utterly misleading,' says Thurso councillor

By Gordon Calder

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!

THE so-called pause on the £80 million redesign of health services in Caithness was this week described as "totally and utterly misleading."

Thurso and Northwest Caithness councillor, Matthew Reiss, made the comment at Wednesday night's meeting of the Association of Caithness Community Councils during a presentation by Christian Nicolson, NHS Highland's Caithness district manager.

Christian Nicolson speaking at Wednesday night's meeting. Photo: Mel Roger
Christian Nicolson speaking at Wednesday night's meeting. Photo: Mel Roger

She said the pause in the capital funding from the Scottish Government for the scheme is "a blow" and would "impact on our plans" but stressed that "things which we have started working on will continue to fruition. Anything which has not had a spade in the ground will be paused, " said Mrs Nicolson.

The redesign project includes community hub and care villages in Wick and Thurso – costing £55 million – and a reconfiguration of Caithness General Hospital.

However, the plans were put on hold after Scottish health boards were told to pause any new capital projects until 2026 at the earliest and concentrate on essential maintenance after the Scottish Government said its capital funding was "extremely challenging".

Councillor Reiss said a pause is a brief stop but pointed out that the delay in the Caithness redesign scheme will be for at least two years.

Councillor Matthew Reiss described the pause on the Caithness redesign plans as "totally and utterly misleading."
Councillor Matthew Reiss described the pause on the Caithness redesign plans as "totally and utterly misleading."

"This technical pause is totally and utterly misleading but it is really important that we support NHS Highland the best we can. The Scottish Government gives them the money but they are not giving them enough money. We need to back NHS Highland to the hilt because when funding becomes available they will have to compete with other health boards throughout Scotland," he said.

Last week, far north MSP, Maree Todd, said she was reassured to hear that NHS Highland is committed to progressing with the planned redesign of services and was "encouraged by the proactive steps" being taken by the health authority.

She was told the redesign of services, workforce planning, development of the local care model and digital work streams will continue, as they are not completely "dependent on building solutions." The hub North Scotland design and consultant teams will remain in place until the end of February while contractor Balfour Beatty, and staff associated with the Caithness General project will stay on until March 31 when the contract will pause.

The SNP MSP said: "I view the Caithness redesign project as essential, and I am committed to doing everything I can to support its progress."

During her presentation on Wednesday night, Mrs Nicolson also talked about plans to recruit staff and attract people here or to encourage locals to come back and work in the far north.

She was asked questions on short-term contracts, care at home, the minor injuries unit at the Dunbar, respite care and dementia.

Corinne Nicklin from Thurso Community Council suggested that to help recruit people to posts in the north "you need to have basic services."

"If not that will be detrimental to getting anyone here," she said.

Thelma Mackenzie, who chairs Thurso Community Council, argued that the dementia care which was provided at the Town and County hospital in Wick was "fantastic."

"Something like that is desperately needed," she said.

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More