THE NEW Staffin health centre is now in the possession of the local community after the building was formally handed over by the contractor.
The £250,000 centre is a key part of Staffin Community Trust’s (SCT) Taighean a’ Chaiseil development in Stenscholl, which also includes six houses and two business units.
The new building has a GP consultation room, patient interview room, waiting area, toilets/baby changer and kitchen/staffroom.
It will be tenanted by NHS Highland on a long-term basis from SCT.
The current GP clinic run by the Portree Medical Practice at the Nurse’s Cottage will be moved to the new centre.
Staffin community councillors Simon Clayton and Isobel MacDonald and SCT director Angus Ross were enthused by the potential for a range of health services to be offered from the new centre during their visit.
Isobel, a former district nurse for many years in north Skye, often worked out of the Nurse’s Cottage and was delighted to inspect the modern facility. SCT has also recently welcomed local MSP Kate Forbes, who strongly backed the project, for a visit.
It comes five years after SCT and Staffin Community Council made a joint submission to NHS Highland seeking support for a new health facility amid concerns at the condition and suitability of the Nurse’s Cottage including access for the elderly and disabled, dampness, lack of privacy and inadequate car parking. The location and age of the property made improvements challenging for NHSH.
Both community organisations took the view the new development would be the ideal location for purpose-built facility and NHSH supported the proposal. Before SCT issued the construction tender back in 2019, NHSH provided the internal specification and layout to ensure it can be a versatile health facility. The building offers potential for digital health technology to be used to reduce traveling times for local patients. SCT will also encourage the use of the building for community health and well-being activities.
SCT took handover of the centre from James MacQueen Building Contractors and is looking to agree the lease with NHSH soon, so a formal date for it to become operational can be announced. An opening event will be arranged later in the year and a name agreed for the building in consultation with the community.
After the lease is signed and a moving date confirmed SCT will look to conclude the purchase of the Nurse Cottage from NHS, via a Scottish Land Fund Grant, and offer it as an affordable housing opportunity.
The cottage was constructed by the Staffin Nursing Association on a croft in 1933, with the unanimous support of the Clachan and Garafad townships, pictured below, and paid for through donations from the local community.
An annual rent of £24 was subsequently paid to The Department factor.
It was designed as accommodation for district nurses, but no medical treatment was provided. Instead, the nurses worked throughout the district visiting people’s homes, predominately on foot or bicycle. It was effectively ‘key worker’ housing.
The cottage was built six years prior to the outbreak of the Second World War - and 15 years before the creation of the NHS, when people paid a contribution for medical assistance. It showed the Staffin community’s resilience, determination and vision to provide for itself, with no national framework in place.
In 1974, the last district nurse to live in the cottage moved out and the building later became the base for the weekly GP clinic. The Highland Health Board took ownership after the community gifted the Nurse’s Cottage to the health board.
Almost 90 years later the Staffin community has delivered another community building to support health services for local people.