Board favours the development of a ‘Harris Health Hub’

Two options for the provision of a new Dental Surgery in Tarbert were considered by Western Isles Health Board on Thursday (June 28), with the option to refurbish the existing Doctor’s House in Tarbert to create a ‘Harris Health Hub’ emerging as the preferred way forward.

Members were presented with a Feasibility Study commissioned by NHS Western Isles, which contained two options for dental provision and options for additional car parking spaces. Dental services for the population of Harris are temporarily being provided from Scalpay Clinic, with a number of Harris residents also registered with Western Isles Dental Centre in Stornoway.

Option 1 is to refurbish the existing Doctor’s House in Tarbert and Option 2 is to erect a new single storey timber frame building on the existing site footprint of the Doctor’s House. The Doctor’s House adjoins the existing Doctor’s Surgery in Tarbert. The building has not been inhabited for a number of years with the exception of one room which has been in use as a consulting room which is accessed from the Doctor’s Surgery.

Option 1, the refurbishment of the existing building, which would cost an estimated £433,500, would mean that reception services would be shared with the existing surgery, with the main entrance being through the existing surgery. Option 1 would mean renovating the whole house which would introduce increased capacity for other services, to effectively create a ‘Health Hub’ in Harris.

Option 2, which would cost an estimated £495,000, would involve the demolition of the existing Doctor’s House. Initial consultation with the Comhairle’s Development Department, however, suggests that this option would not preferable, due to the contribution that the type of house makes to the character of the area.

The Board’s Estates Department also favours Option 1, which would meet dental provision requirements and also provide the opportunity to expand the range of services provided in the Doctor’s House so that a ‘Health Hub’ could be created.

The Board agreed to take Option 1 to the next stage of planning and to look at the wider opportunities associated with the refurbishment of the premises. A timeline will be developed and brought back to a future Board meeting.

With regard to parking, there is currently limited provision in the area directly in front of the Doctor’s Surgery, with six unmarked spaces plus a marked disabled bay. To increase and improve parking provision, options identified within the Feasibility Study were to develop new off-street parking to the front of the building (which would create 14 additional spaces at a cost of approximately £47,000), new off-street parking to the rear of the building (which would create 16 additional spaces at a cost of approximately £90,000), and to use existing parking provision on adjoining properties (which would create a maximum of 28 potential parking spaces at a cost of £33,000, and would be dependent on securing an agreement with the neighbouring proprietors). Parking options will be explored further and the outcome of work will be brought back to a future Board meeting.

NHS Western Isles Non Executive Director Neil Campbell welcomed the decision, stressing that the people of Harris are keen to have a permanent base for dental provision in Harris.

Western Isles Health Board had to relocate Dental Services from the Old Hostel in Tarbert to Scalpay last summer, after a notice to quit the premises was received by the Board from the Comhairle.

Board members considered short, medium and long term options for dental services in Harris, and concluded that, in the short-term, the preferred option would be to temporarily relocate dental services to Scalpay Clinic whilst a feasibility study takes place to fully examine long-term options for the permanent relocation of services. Scalpay Clinic was refurbished to provide temporary accommodation for the dental services.