Temporary closure of Leanchoil Hospital

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Forres Community Hospital has been closed, on a temporary basis, “as a result of a persistent and significant inability to staff the facility.”

In a briefing from the Moray Health & Social Care Partnership, Chief Officer Pam Gowans states that, despite every effort: “it is proving extremely difficult to sustain the levels of workforce required to ensure patient and staff safety in Leanchoil.”

“We believe that Moray is a fantastic place to work and we have tried very hard to encourage qualified nurses to come and work here.  Staff will be aware of recent recruitment drives which have been unsuccessful for Leanchoil. We have also targeted those nurses with lapsed registration to come back onto the wards via our Return to Practice course. These efforts have not been successful at the level we would require in order to sustain service.”

Ms Gowans also pays tribute to staff on the wards, who “have gone above and beyond the call of duty in providing cover, and we wish to express our deepest thanks to our staff for doing so. However, by being unable to recruit to safe staffing numbers the service is unsustainable for staff and patients.”

The temporary closure comes while the whole model of how health and social care services are provided in the Forres area is being reviewed and discussed with both professionals and the local community. There are serious questions being asked regarding the future role of Leanchoil, and indeed the future of other community hospitals in Moray and beyond.

Politicians, health professionals and communities are looking at well-loved buildings and institutions designed and built to meet the health challenges of a hundred years ago, and asking how those buildings can best help meet the very different needs of today.

While the emotional attachment many of us feel for these venerable buildings means there are still voices asking for them to be “saved,” there are increasing calls for at least exploring alternative uses for the buildings.

Within the context of recent legislation, like the Community Empowerment Act passed in 2015, community groups, including Forres Community Council, are at least considering the option of communities taking on the buildings themselves.

insideMORAY, and communities across Moray and beyond, will be wishing Forres Community Council well in their efforts to source funding for a community-led feasibility study of alternative uses for Leanchoil. We will be interested to see what the local community thinks it can do to restore these buildings to their former glory while enabling the NHS and others to develop and deliver services designed to meet today’s needs.

This would fit well with one of Ms Gowans key strategic aims of “patient focused services that aim to maximise independence and avoid institutional care wherever possible. In Forres we are currently working on new models of care in the community that can be delivered in a sustainable way whilst ensuring the key functions carried out at Leanchoil Hospital are available to the people of Forres.”

We look forward to hearing how this work progresses, and will be keeping our readers informed.