NHS patients have been left angered after discovering a £4 million state-of-the-art health centre in the Highlands has been operating for the past three months without any doctors.
The centre in Tain, Ross-shire, was opened in June but while dentists and community nurses have moved in, the GPs have yet to take up residency.
NHS Highland blame “snagging” problems with the new build, involving technical and contractual issues, including the transfer of computer equipment. They claim the doctors will be moving soon from their current premises in the town to the centre.
The situation has left patients arriving at the health centre for appointments with their doctor, only to find they have not yet moved in.
This has left them having to travel across town in a bid to make their alloted time, sometimes arriving late and finding appointments have already been cancelled.
David Macdonald, chairman of the Community Council of the Royal Burgh of Tain, said he had been aware of some patients, including the elderly and new mothers, going to the new centre only to be told to make their way to the other practice.
He added: “We would hope this latest issue is a teething problem which won’t take long to fix.”
Sandra Smith, of Mansfield Residents Association, described the situation as “a pain”.
The health authority has reassured patients that the issues will soon be resolved.
The centre was built by Miller Construction amid claims it would provide a wide range of health and social care services.
These include GP, dental and integrated “community team” facilities.
Nigel Small, of NHS Highland, confirmed a number of “snagging” issues had delayed the GPs’ move. He said: “As I am sure many people who have bought a new home will understand, there is always the potential for one or two snags when moving to a new health centre.
“The situation at Tain health centre is that the building is ready and is in use for dental and community nursing services.
“The GP practices will be in the next phase of services to move in.”
The Tain development is part of an initiative to deliver three health centres in a single contract – the first project of its kind in Scotland.
The projects are in Forres, Woodside in Aberdeen and Tain.
The three facilities will be heated by biomass boiler systems, which will contribute to reducing NHS Scotland’s carbon footprint.
Mr Small added: “Some technical, contractual issues have held up the GPs’ move, as have some issues relating to the transfer of computer systems from the existing practice building.
“We are confident that these matters will be resolved soon and that the GPs’ patients will then benefit from what is a first-class facility.
“In the meantime, I apologise for any inconvenience this temporary situation has caused.”