BOSSES at the support charity setting up a national addiction rehab centre in Saltcoats have assured North Ayrshire councillors that the facility will not heap further pressure onto already strained general medical services in the area.

Phoenix Futures chiefs were quizzed at a meeting of North Ayrshire Council's integration joint board (IJB) last week - with the new service set to open at the former Seabank Nursing Home in around two months' time.

The specialist resource will provide residential help to up to 20 families at any one time, offering placements between three and six months long supporting recovery from drugs or alcohol addiction.

The centre, which will be staffed 24/7 and will be named Harper House, will combine therapeutic interventions, parenting interventions and childcare throughout the treatment programme and is based on a similar model that has been successfully implemented in Sheffield for more than 20 years.

During the IJB discussion streamed online on Thursday (June 16), clinical director Iain Jamieson asked about the potential impact of the new service on current provision in the area.

Mr Jamieson said: "I'm super enthusiastic about what's happening, the only thing I would add is that it is opening up in the middle of an area that is really quite under-doctored already, with a system in primary care that's under considerable strain.

READ MORE: Drug charity explain their plans for new Saltcoats family centre

"All the practices that surround this facility are currently a partner down at the very least, they're having difficulty simply getting through their day."

In response, Lyndsey Wilson-Hague - head of operations for Phoenix Futures in Scotland - said she understood "the pressures on the Three Towns area".

Peter McArthur, senior manager for addiction services at North Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP), added: "We've had detailed meetings with the primary care team and key personnel. It is a challenge, with the pressure on general practice, and we don't underestimate that, but there are a number of really positive options."

Arran councillor Timothy Billings pressed organisers further on how self-sufficient the project will be.

Cllr Billings said: "If people are coming from outside North Ayrshire, or Ayrshire, is there any expectation of support from existing healthcare services within North Ayrshire that could be impacted by this?"

Ms Wilson-Hague replied: "We have established a staffing model, so we have some clinical provision in-house. There are nurses within our staffing structure that will look at triaging any need and requirement.

"We're hoping that North Ayrshire residents, where possible, can stay with their normal practice, but for those coming into the area we still have a little bit to go in firming up how that's going to work. We're discussing potential contracts."

The extensive refurb of the property is due to finish in mid-July, and 30 staff members have now been recruited for the new service.

Rowanna Macdonald, childcare manager at the facility, told the meeting: "The benefits of this service will be primarily enabling families to stay safely together and avoid the separation and re-traumatisation which we know can dramatically increase the risk of drug-related harms and drug-related deaths.

"Families will leave with improvements in parenting skills and confidence, increased family health and wellbeing.

"We aim to be able to study and share best practice in supporting families affected by addiction and become a centre of excellence fairly quickly.

"The aim is to develop an understanding of the family unit as a means to making a positive change."

READ MORE: Drug rehab centre confirmed for former Saltcoats nursing home