Health / Still too early to say exactly where new hospital could be located

Lerwick or its outskirts are the most likely candidates – but not the centre of town, NHS chairman says

Photo: Shetland News

IT REMAINS unclear where a possible replacement Gilbert Bain Hospital could be sited – but Lerwick or the outskirts of town are the most likely locations, according to NHS Shetland chairman Gary Robinson.

He said one thing the health board can probably rule out at this stage is a hospital being built in the centre of Lerwick, given constraints around available sites.

Robinson also said NHS Shetland has “outgrown” the existing hospital site as well as its Montfield base.

He was speaking after members of the health board heard this week that the Scottish Government – which would fund a new hospital – is moving away from looking at capital projects on an individual basis.

This means NHS Shetland will now need to look at its capital requirements across the isles rather than just focus on a new hospital in isolation. This includes exploring whether all NHS properties are fit for purpose.

Gary Robinson.

“I guess if you think about how Orkney took forward the Balfour hospital project, they’ve got the clinical GP surgeries in there, the dental surgery in there and various other things as well,” Robinson said. “I think it encourages the best use of the assets.”

The Scottish Government is due to give NHS Shetland around half a million pounds to enable it to complete what is called a Programme Initial Agreement (PIA) for the isles, which is likely be finished by the end of the year.

This means that work on the hospital project will be delayed, possibly by around six to nine months, but it is thought that it will give a better overview as Shetland as a whole.

It comes after options appraisal work was carried out on the case for change.

Initial estimates have priced a replacement hospital at £125 million but that figure was given to the NHS board last year. There are also many hoops to be jumped through before the project gets to a stage of being signed off.

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“We will never know the final exact figure until you tender the job, which is sufficiently far away in the process that we couldn’t say with any accuracy,” Robinson said.

Once the PIA is complete the next stage would be an outline business case, and then a full business case. It is not until a full business case that plans for a hospital would begin to emerge.

In the mix so far has been the consideration of providing accommodation for 100 NHS staff, which would replace the flats the health board has at Montfield and also the guest house it recently bought for workers.

NHS Orkney launched its new hospital and healthcare facility the Balfour near the centre of Kirkwall in 2019, and it contains for example a dentist department and as well as some GP services.


Robinson said embedding other services like this within a new Shetland hospital is something that would be thought about, including the idea of moving the Lerwick Health Centre in there.

“Clearly that’s things we will have to consider, especially around dental because the dental practice is co-located on the Montfield site on the moment,” the health board chairman said.

“If we vacate that site, we would need somewhere to put that dental practice. So, it may make sense that that goes into a new hospital. There’s nothing definite yet.

“We’re not close yet to identifying a site, but that will come through time. I think that’s probably something we will look at in the outline business case stage.”

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