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Friends of Insch Hospital devastated by Aberdeenshire Integration Joint Board decision which ignores need for beds in the village

By Pat Scott

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JUST days before their major jubilee fundraiser, Friends of Insch Hospital are reeling from the decision from the Aberdeenshire Integration Joint Board (IJB) which completely ignored their strategic vision for the 100 year old hospital.

The hospital had its doors closed at the start of the pandemic and a review of health services in Insch was launched in May 2021.

The group's strategic vision included local beds at the hospital as part of a comprehensive set of local services.

But instead the IJB agreed to develop a wellbeing hub with community meeting and clincial space while a business case for capital investment is developed.

The report to the IJB laid out a list of options which were agreed five votes to three and which included exploring four options for new-build facilities.

A wellbeing hub is proposed but locals want hospital beds in Insch. Picture: Becky Saunderson.
A wellbeing hub is proposed but locals want hospital beds in Insch. Picture: Becky Saunderson.

One option however would see inpatient capacity at Inverurie Hospital increase with a new build or extension, meaning no inpatient beds at Insch.

Addressing the IJB, Chris Humphries, a member of the Community Hospitals Association who has supported Friends asked for the option for the beds for Insch residents to be located at Inverurie hospital be ruled out. He said: "We drew up a plan that would support the development of services for people both at home, and in local settings including beds, together with an approach that focuses on health and well-being and prevention."

Frank Musgrave who spoke on behalf of Bennachie Community Council told the meeting expectations had been raised by the First Minister who on a visit to Insch said she would not find it acceptable to have a hospital like Insch not reopening.

Mr Musgrave said: "There are now less hospital in-patient beds in the area, there are difficulties in accessing beds for patients in need so predictably the standard of healthcare in Insch has been affected.

"The report completely fails to take into account the rural nature of the community. Some villages have no local transport, for elderly and disabled residents even getting to Insch can be challenging."

A wellbeing hub is proposed in place of the previous use of Insch War Memorial Hospital. Picture: Becky Saunderson.
A wellbeing hub is proposed in place of the previous use of Insch War Memorial Hospital. Picture: Becky Saunderson.

Allison Grant who is vice chair of Friends said that bringing Inverurie Hospital into the equation was a complete change of direction since the original appraisal process had been about Insch.

Speaking emotionally,Ms Grant said: "They have taken no heed of what the loss of the hospital means to people. They speak of a wellbeing hub and space for groups but Insch has the Bennachie Leisure Centre which is already a wellbeing hub and lots of halls and places to meet. There is no requirement for what is suggested yet no mention of a minor injuries service.

"Friends have not had time to assess the way forward but we know we need to get the best we can for Insch but it's as if the IJB don't care about what they offer.

"We get told verbally that the building does not meet standards but we need to see that report in black and white.

"It is very hard for the community to lose something that they had and loved. It feels like our hospital has been taken away by stealth. The IJB gave no recognition to the significant loss to the community. It is hard for Friends to know how we now move forward."

It is claimed that Insch patients can use beds in Huntly and Inverurie Hospitals but Ms Grant said the reality was that most landed in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary when to be closer to home would be beneficial.

Friends of Insch Hospital have previously raised serious concerns over the way a Strategic Needs Assessment was conducted out and the methodology used.

Chair of the Integration Joint Board, Rhona Atkinson, said: “We are all too aware of the increasing demographic, financial and workforce pressures that our services face and we are absolutely committed to working with local communities to ensure that we provide and commission services to meet their needs.”

Vice Chair councillor Anne Stirling, said: “The IJB’s agreement will see the development of a Wellbeing Hub at the much-loved Insch War Memorial Hospital.

"Officers will continue to develop the options with the community and stakeholder groups, but this will mean that we are able to deliver a resource for the community to use in the near future whilst we continue to the work on a business case to be presented to Scottish Government for capital funding.”

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