Concern over continued delays to community health centre project

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CONCERNS have been raised about continued delays to a new community heath centre after it emerged the project was still awaiting Scottish Government approval.

The multi-million pound clinic in Firrhill and Muirhouse was supposed to be up and running last year, but in 2011 funding changes affecting NHS Lothian and the council saw plans put on ice.

The centre was supposed to bring together a range of health services and house local GP practices.

A motion to go before the city council has now revealed that NHS Lothian is still waiting for the Scottish Government to approve the project.

It is understood the approval relates to associated aspects of the project, with the main centre approved back in 2007.

The latest plans would see the project “bundled” with Muirhouse and Blackburn, meaning a new business case would have to be drawn up, causing further delays.

The news has led to local councillor Jason Rust calling for urgent clarification on the future of the project.

The Colinton/Fairmilehead councillor has also called on the council to “lament the delays and uncertainty” in the project over the past five years.

He said: “There seems to have been setback after setback with this proposed health centre. Dates come and go with little to no progress and there has been a dire lack of proactive engagement with the local community.

“We now need certainty as to when the business case will be progressed and as to exactly what services will be incorporated in the new facility. The goalposts keep changing and NHS Lothian, the Scottish Government and the council need to get a grip of this situation.”

Funding for the centre had been provisionally agreed in 2007, when the new centre was seen as a priority for the area. The intention was to improve services to the public by encouraging better joint working between the council and NHS Lothian.

Firrhill community council leader Heather Levy said there was a lot of uncertainty in the area and admitted that after five years of continued delays there was now real concern amongst residents that the centre wouldn’t be built at all.

“We’ve had nothing but delays, and this news that now we are still waiting is just very frustrating,” she said.

“Throughout this project one of the most concerning elements has been the way the goalposts have constantly been shifted on us. It now seems the approval has been delayed because of other parts of the project, and now they want to bundle the centre in with services for Muirhouse and Blackburn, which had never been mentioned to us before.

“We just want to know what’s happening.”

The council’s health, social care and housing committee will discuss the motion by Cllr Rust later this month.