Campaigners pressing for a replacement health centre in a Moray town have welcomed steps to fulfil their ambitions.
Patients in Keith have become increasingly concerned about the condition of the local GP practice and Turner Memorial Hospital.
Parts of the complex, some of which date from the 19th century, are now not able to be accessed by people in wheelchairs while some rooms are not able to house modern equipment.
A site for a replacement has already been identified near the town’s secondary school.
Now campaigners have been told that NHS Grampian have begun looking for a project manager to develop a blueprint for what should be included in the new health centre.
Leon Stelmach, chairman of the practice’s patient participation group, which represents the centre’s 7,000 patients, welcomed the development – but warned there was still a long way to go.
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said: “There’s strong support in the community for a new health centre in the town and we know from previous discussions with the health board that Keith is the top priority in Moray for a replacement.
“That NHS Grampian has now allocated funding for a project manager to take forward the plans is a big step forward.
“We have a long way to go but once they are in post we’ll be able to focus minds on next steps and engaging with the public about what the needs are within the community.”
Former health secretary Shona Robison visited the town last year to hear from doctors and patients about the need for new facilities.
Moray Council has already earmarked a plot of land near Keith Grammar School as suitable for an upgraded medical centre in its local development plan.
However, NHS Grampian has previously stressed that further work is needed before options can be reported to management.
Mr Stelmach said: “It would be good to get someone in the post who really has the bit between their teeth to deliver something that is all-singing and all-dancing save travelling for short appointments.
“The momentum is still there, which is good. This isn’t a big step on its own but it can lead to more.”