Health centre plan approved in Wester Hailes

A LONG-delayed new health centre for one of Edinburgh’s most deprived areas will be up and running within two years after plans were approved.

Locals have faced lengthy hold-ups for work to start on the £10 million partnership between NHS Lothian and the city council which will occupy derelict land which has lain empty for nearly two decades.

Construction can now begin on the Wester Hailes Healthy Living Centre, which will provide a range of services for the community, after councillors approved the bid.

There could be further boosts to the area, as part of the approved proposal includes future provision of affordable housing beside the centre for up to 150 new homes.

The city’s health and social care leader, Cllr Paul Edie, said: “This is an exciting time for people living in Wester Hailes.

“Having all these facilities in one location can only be of benefit to everyone in the community and the new site will transform a derelict part of the neighbourhood.”

The facility will accommodate the Wester Hailes Health Agency, currently based in nearby Dumbryden, and space for other voluntary sector services.

Physiotherapy, a dentist, podiatrists and a speech and language therapist will also be on site in the Harvester’s Way building, which lies behind the Westside Plaza shopping unit.

As well as traditional medical services, it is understood the centre could lay on treatments such as massage, relaxation therapy and counselling.

The scheme was initially intended to be up and running by 2009, but had been subjected to numerous delays.

Local businesses became so frustrated with delays at that point a plan was developed to build their own health centre in the plaza itself. They said the Harvester’s Way venue was too far out and would harm shops in a centre that is already badly struggling for business.

Centre owners claimed to have the backing of 80 per cent of the businesses there, but the idea faded and the NHS-local authority partnership moved its own plans forward.

NHS Lothian chairman Charles Winstanley said: “This is such an exciting and innovative development which, once completed, will bring substantial health and wellbeing benefits to the community.

Statistics have shown residents in Wester Hailes to have among the worst health in the Lothians. Studies reveal that life expectancy for males there is worse than it is in Iraq, while levels of suicide, smoking and drug use are significantly above the city average.