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Health / Senior NHS officials respond to calls for new hospital

NHS Scotland chief executive Caroline Lamb and national clinical director Jason Leitch said the needs of the community need to be assessed first

Lerwick's Gilbert Bain Hospital. Photo: Shetland News

TWO of Scotland’s most senior NHS officials have said it is important for the local health board to evaluate how the community’s needs would be best served before determining whether a new-build hospital is required.

NHS Scotland chief executive Caroline Lamb and national clinical director Jason Leitch, who spent two days visiting Shetland and Orkney this week, were speaking after Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart called for a “new-build hospital fit for the 21st century”.

Her letter to health secretary Humza Yousaf stated that the Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick, opened in 1961, had “outgrown its space and 1950s design”.

Two years ago, Wishart highlighted, an NHS Shetland report concluded that the existing site “provides little opportunity for expansion and little or no variation to the layout possible in an attempt to come close to achieving the modern hospital requirements of today”.

During a media briefing on Thursday, Lamb said that modern healthcare was “not about buildings”, but about ensuring that services and the workforce are configured to suit the population’s needs.

Jason Leitch outside the Scalloway health centre on Tuesday. Photo: Shetland News

“There is no doubt that the Gilbert Bain is an old building and coming to the end of the time where it can continue to be patched up,” she said, adding it was right for NHS Shetland to examine what any new facilities should look like: “It might be a completely new hospital…I know the board is thinking about that.”

Leitch, who made reference to how impressed he was with the “terrific” new Balfour Hospital in Kirkwall, said he loved “shiny new buildings” and the unveiling of plaques.

But the health service’s focus needs to be on “person-centred care, quality, access, [the ability to] see the right person at the right time”.

“It may be that Shetland needs a new build, but let’s start from the point of view of what the healthcare and social care output should be.”

He said it was for the health board and local authority to work out “what is required”, adding it was important to “remember it takes a long time to do it”.

In her letter to Yousaf, Wishart said the time for “refurbishment and ‘quick fixes’ is over”.

“We need a new hospital to serve the needs of Shetland now and into the future,” the Liberal Democrat MSP wrote.

“The Scottish Government needs to invest in islanders’ healthcare, and those that provide it, now.”