SCOTLAND'S health secretary has accepted an invitation to visit the "dilapidated and unfit for purpose" Lochgelly Health Centre as the wait for its replacement drags on.

Cowdenbeath MSP Annabelle Ewing invited Michael Matheson after it was revealed £13 million of funding for a new facility will not be available until at least 2026.

Ms Ewing said: "After welcoming Michael Matheson to his new role as cabinet secretary for health, I challenged him on the priority being placed on securing progress on a new medical centre for Lochgelly.

“I can assure my constituents that I pulled no punches in urging the cabinet secretary for health to give the project the priority it is due, describing the centre as dilapidated and unfit for purpose - awful conditions for patients and staff.

“My question in the chamber was echoing a letter I sent to Mr Matheson earlier this week in which I made it plain that news of further delay to the provision of a new health and wellbeing facility has been met with considerable concern, disappointment, and anger locally.

“There are, in particular, fears that this delay will mean poorer care for the people of Lochgelly, less integration of services and professions, and an exacerbation of the difficulties that the area has in recruitment and retention of GPs and other staff.

“Of course, all the explanations Mr Matheson provided are true, but none of that delivers that much-needed new health centre to the community of Lochgelly.

“To ensure that he fully understands the dire need for this project to go ahead as quickly as possible, I invited the cabinet secretary to join me on a visit to Lochgelly Health Centre. I welcome his acceptance of that invitation and look forward to showing him, in person, the condition the building is in."

Money for a new health centre in Lochgelly, and Kincardine, was not considered a "priority" for the Scottish Government in its Infrastructure Investment Plan (2021-26).

Mr Matheson blamed sky-high inflation, less cash than expected from Westminster and rising construction costs as he confirmed that Kincardine and Lochgelly will have to wait another three years for funding.

In a joint statement from Linda Erskine, Labour councillor for Lochgelly, Cardenden and Benarty, and fellow party councillor Graeme Downie, they said they were "furious" over the lack of priority given to both projects.

They said: "Both new health centres were promised well over a decade ago, with both current buildings entirely unfit for purpose.

"Not only does that make it harder to deliver effective health care but also to recruit people to work in a poor workplace environment.

"Yet all we hear from the SNP is excuse after excuse after excuse, while failing to take any responsibility.”

Last month Cllr Downie's emergency motion at Fife Council was approved, calling on council leader David Ross to write to the Scottish Government asking for the funds for the health centres to be delivered as soon as possible.

The current facility in Kincardine's Kilbagie Street was branded "not fit for purpose" in 2016 and Cllr Downie said that further delays in providing a new one will “make it harder for NHS Fife to provide effective health care”.

The motion followed the revelation in the Scottish Parliament that the money to build them wouldn't be available until the "second half" of the decade.

In the reply to Cllr Ross, Mr Matheson wrote: "While the construction of new health centres in Kincardine and Lochgelly were not identified in the Infrastructure Investment Plan (2021-26) as a priority, they were two of a number of projects which the Scottish Government was hoping to take forward at the earliest possible opportunity, if budget flexibility emerged.

"The Scottish Government recognises that there is a need to invest in health facilities in Kincardine and Lochgelly.

"However, the impact of higher than expected inflation means there is no ability to expand the health infrastructure programme at this point.

"Instead, health infrastructure spending will be focused on the priority projects set out in the Infrastructure Investment Plan and funding for new health centres in Kincardine and Lochgelly is unlikely to be available until 2026 at the earliest."

Cllr Downie and Cllr Erskine's statement added: “The people of Kincardine and Lochgelly are being forgotten by the SNP but they will not be forgotten by the Labour Party."

Cowdenbeath councillor Alex Campbell had also previously invited Mr Matheson to visit the current health centre on Lochgelly's David Street.

He warned that the failure to deliver a new facility for Lochgelly will have a knock-on impact on other communities across the Cowdenbeath area.

He told the Times: “The news that the Scottish Government has gone back on its promise to the people of Lochgelly that they would have a new health centre in the first part of this decade is devastating for the local community but the announcement also means other communities who are in desperate need of new facilities will be pushed even further into the next decade.

"Indeed it is now looking unlikely that Lochgelly will have a new health centre in this decade so for all those other communities we are looking well into the 2030s/40s.

“In communities such as Kelty this will almost certainly mean GPs being forced to close their books to new residents given they are struggling to cope now due to the failing building. There was an acceptance that Lochgelly had the greatest need and is why all communities welcomed the promises of a new centre, promises we now know were false and had more to do with conning the voters that anything resembling reality."