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Leanchoil Hospital no longer suitable for medical use and alternative plans on hold

By Garry McCartney

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Leanchoil will remain out-of-bounds for some time yet.
Leanchoil will remain out-of-bounds for some time yet.

A MUCH-loved Forres building will not revert back to its original practice during the coronavirus pandemic.

Forres Community Council and Leanchoil Trust chairman, Graham Hilditch, is keen to see the boarded-up former hospital on St Leonard's Road put to good use once again but, despite his offer, NHS Grampian say they have no need for it.

Mr Hilditch said: "We contacted NHS Grampian to offer the information that we have gathered regarding Leanchoil refurbishment if they wanted to make use of the complex, but it makes sense for them to use existing facilities such as exhibition centres and hotels, where all the systems are already in place, and where conversion to a hospital can be done fairly quickly.

"All of the medical equipment, beds etc had already been cleared out of Leanchoil and diverted to other hospitals, in preparation for the community asset transfer."

In February, Renfrewshire-based veteran's care charity Erskine formally declared an interest in setting up a veterans’ activity centre in the main building later this year, however, this is no longer a certainty due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Hilditch said: "It makes sense for us at the moment to put the whole project on hold. The NHS and care organisations who we have been working with are, quite rightly, concentrating their resources on fighting COVID 19.

"We have had tremendous support from NHS Grampian who have already contacted us to make clear that they want to fully support us in our project in the future."

Plans had been laid out for the main building, maternity wing and nurses’ home at Leanchoil during February's announcement. Erskine 's Veterans’ Activity Centre was to be open to veterans of all ages and it was hoped that it would be up-and-running by autumn. After a few years, the maternity wing's refurbishment would require around £2.5million to make it a centre for health and wellbeing for the Forres area community. It is also hoped that the nurses' home behind the main building both Erskine could be used for accommodation for residents, patients and staff. Around £1.5million would be required to convert and refurbish it.

Before anything else, NHS Grampian need to community asset transfer the site to the Leanchoil Trust.

Mr Hilditch finished: "The situation is very disappointing for the whole Leanchoil Trust team, who have put so much work into the project. We were so close.

"We are very aware that the whole economic situation will be very different when this crisis is finally over, and although there will be even more need for a local facility such as Leanchoil to provide health and wellbeing support, funding such a project will be very challenging."

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