I NOTE with interest your articles on the stalled plans for a new Highland hospital (“GPs demand progress on hospital that was to be in place 18 years ago”, The Herald, September 25, and "Doctors fears hospital will axe surgical posts... before it is built", The Herald, September 22). On November 11, 2003, 2,800 people turned up to a public meeting in Fort William, which action stopped the proposed downgrading of the Belford Hospital, leading in turn to a Solutions Group and the creation of the concept of the Rural General Hospital (RGH) of which there are now six across Scotland.

The need for a fully equipped RGH remains, for resilience reasons too, given the Belford’s distance from Raigmore Hospital in Inverness coupled with the amount of A&E business generated from Lochaber being the Outdoor Capital of the UK and the poor safety record of the busy yet substandard A82 trunk road. Folk in rural areas know they need to travel some distance for clinical procedures, but having to travel two and a half hours and more from parts of Lochaber to Inverness is far from reasonable, which is why we need to see the new Belford built, properly equipped and staffed without any further delay. While the site has been bought and is shovel-ready, NHS Highland just hasn’t put the case together yet after years of delay.

The previous Cabinet Secretary for Health, Shona Robison MSP, expressed determination to see better progress from NHS Highland and you quote Kate Forbes and Ian Blackford saying the same. Cross-party working is not always evident these days, but we have sound support from Rhoda Grant and Donald Cameron too, Labour and Conservative MSPs respectively.

Your two Belford articles give the impression that the call for progress comes from GPs but I assure readers that there is a very strong and determined community voice too. As part of that big public effort nearly 20 years ago I agree with my two campaigning colleagues mentioned, Dr Michal Foxley and David Sedgwick, that we could be going there again.

John C Hutchison, Fort William.