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Community draw up plans to take over former hospital site in Brechin

Brechin Infirmary.
Brechin Infirmary.

A community group has drawn up plans to take over a former Tayside hospital site to address local closures.

Brechin Healthcare Group (BHG) has submitted a community asset transfer request to NHS Tayside to take over the massive Brechin Infirmary site which was deemed surplus to requirements in February 2018.

Brechin Infirmary.

Chairman Grahame Lockhart said the aim is to develop a health and wellbeing hub for the community of Brechin, Edzell and the Glens with ‘social prescribing’ at its heart.

He said the potential benefits of the health and wellbeing hub “will be long-lasting and be a template for other communities in Tayside and beyond”.

Activities and services would include supporting people with enduring mental health needs “in a safe and healthy space”.

However, concerns have been raised with regards a community charity taking on a site of this size and the cost of maintaining the building long-term.

Mr Lockhart said the community will now be asked to demonstrate their support for the hub which the group says would address the “drastic reductions in levels of local support services and infrastructure”.

He said: “The health and wellbeing hub will benefit our whole community, and in partnership with a wide range of health professionals, third sector and voluntary organisations, ‘social prescribing’, and ‘green prescribing’, will be at the very heart of all  we can achieve.

Left to right, Derek Harper, Moira Robertson and Grahame Lockhart.

“As a charitable organisation we will be able to apply for external funding which will help mitigate the ongoing considerable financial constraints on NHS Tayside.

“As part of the process of submitting a community asset transfer request for the previous Brechin Infirmary site, we have now engaged with NHS Tayside as the present owners of the site, and with Angus Health and Social Care Partnership, as the statutory agency with responsibility for local services.

“This has been done with the active input and support of the Scottish Government’s Community Ownership Support Services (COSS).”

In August they met with representatives of Angus Integrated Joint Board (AIJB) and Angus Health and Social Care Partnership (AHSCP).

Mr Lockhart said there is general support for the concept.

However, both NHS Tayside and the AHSCP feel the site is a “large undertaking for a community charity to shoulder”.

In order to support the CAT request process, the group also made an application in July for a grant from the Scottish Land Fund (SLF) which included the valuation and survey costs of the site.

However, SLF also raised concerns about a community charity taking on a site of this size and the cost of running and maintaining the building long-term.

In order to resubmit its application in November, they want the group to demonstrate further community support and conduct appropriate surveys to identify the value and associated costs for renovating the building.

BHG must meet the costs of the surveys and is in the process of setting up crowd funding “to ask the community to demonstrate their support for the hub”.

An NHS Tayside spokesperson said: “The board has received an Asset Transfer Request and is currently assessing its content with the Brechin Healthcare Group.”

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