More work is being done on the possibility of creating a multi-million-pound community campus on Barra to provide hospital, care, school and community services for the people of the island and of Vatersay.

Representatives of NHS Eileanan Siar and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar recently met in Castlebay with stakeholders from Barra and Vatersay to provide an update on the development and delivery of two major infrastructure projects for the islands.

There are currently two separate major investment projects being proposed for the islands.  

First, NHS Eileanan Siar, in collaboration with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, are developing proposals which will see the replacement of the St Brendan’s Hospital and Care Home; second, the Comhairle are looking to replace Castlebay and Eoligarry Schools as part of the development of a learning and community facilities hub for Barra and Vatersay.

Gordon Jamieson, NHS Eileanan Siar Chief Executive, said “Both organisations are keen to explore the feasibility of integrating health, social care, learning and community services and facilities on Barra and Vatersay and the provision of a single combined campus in Castlebay”.

“We shall shortly begin a study which examines the feasibility of such an approach and, in addition to assessing the technical feasibility of such a development, we also need to examine issues around how such a delivery model can be established in the context of governance and approvals processes. 

"The ability of the relevant central and local public sector bodies such as the relevant Scottish Government departments, NHS Eileanan Siar and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to collaborate in a true, efficient and effective partnership will be key to the success of any integrated model and campus”.

Malcolm Burr, the Comhairle’s Chief Executive, confirmed, “Following continuing and significant investment by the Comhairle in the schools estate, amounting to some £73m over the last ten years, the Comhairle identified Castlebay School as the current investment priority for schools in this term’s Capital Programme”.

“We have made an initial allocation of £7m within the Programme and are making good progress in discussions with the Scottish Government and the Scottish Futures Trust regarding additional funding support”.

Mr Burr continued, “We are planning to develop these proposals with a “whole-life” learning agenda, ranging from Early Years through to Primary, Secondary and Higher/Further Education, lifelong learning and community development and now see there being the potential for real efficiencies and benefits in considering an even wider integration model with health and social care”.

“An integration model could not only provide financial benefits arising from a more efficient coordination and delivery of public services for Barra and Vatersay and of the design, procurement and construction of an integrated facility, we are confident it will contribute to increased possibilities for community empowerment, local area governance and the decentralisation of public sector functions to Barra and Vatersay”.

During the meeting, Mr Jamieson confirmed, “Further engagement with stakeholders and the wider community of Barra and Vatersay is essential to ensure we have the fullest picture possible of the views of the community and a clear understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of each of the options. 

"We currently plan to complete the Study by the beginning of September and details of this further engagement during the period of the Study will be confirmed shortly”.