A NEW community diagnostic centre for the Tees Valley being proposed for Stockton would cost more than £30m to build and could be open in early 2025.
The Government wants community diagnostic centres to be a “one stop shop” for MRI and CT scans and other diagnostic services with the aim of allowing patients to receive easier, faster life-saving checks away from hospitals and closer to their homes.
It has made £350m available for new centres to be built across the country, which it is hoped will divert patients away from hospitals – allowing them to treat urgent cases – and tackle a huge backlog in NHS waiting lists caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
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A desktop study and independent report prepared by P+HS Architects has identified the former Castlegate shopping centre, in Stockton High Street, which is being demolished, as the preferred location for the new Tees Valley community diagnostic centre.
The company had been commissioned by health chiefs to carry out an appraisal of the most suitable location for the facility with its recommendation recently being approved by the governing body of the Tees Valley Clinical Commissioning Group, which procures local health services in Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland and Stockton.
The community diagnostic centre would form part of a ‘campus’ of local authority amenities with Stockton Council having previously published a masterplan for the area proposing a new leisure centre, library, and civic registry office, as well as an urban park and land bridge structure connecting the High Street to the River Tees – outline planning permission for all of which was granted in August last year.
The Castlegate site in Stockton, owned by the council, would potentially be made available through a long leasehold – approximately 100 years – and subject to a nominal peppercorn rent arrangement, the P+HS Architects report said.
Stockton South MP Matt Vickers has backed a new diagnostic centre on the High Street, meeting Health Secretary Sajid Javid and health minister Edward Argar to push Stockton’s merits, while support has also come from Stockton Council leader Bob Cook.
Recently Mr Vickers said: “It is a sad reality that there is a 20-year difference in life expectancy from one end of Yarm Road to the other.
“This inequality is unacceptable and I am confident that expanding our capacity for diagnostics and making healthcare more accessible will go a long way in addressing this disparity.”
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The Government has been looking at four more community diagnostic centres, with Stockton in the running for one of these.
A business case would also have to be submitted and approved by national NHS bosses before a final investment decision is made.
A CCG report said the indicative capital costs of the new build facility would be £30m.
Once green-lighted, there would be a formal public consultation with the potential for work starting on the project in 2023/24.
Thereafter, it is anticipated the community diagnostic centre would open its doors to the public in January 2025.
The report said: “This presents an exciting opportunity to build on the collaborative working arrangements already established between North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust and South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and supports the joint commitment to improving health outcomes for our population across Tees Valley.”
The P+HS Architects analysis said the Castlegate site was a “good development opportunity”.
It said: “The site is well connected to the bus network, has associated car parking and vehicle access and is also part of a new regeneration phase which will make this a destination location.”
It added: “The site is also considered to be most favourable due to its value for money, with the site being subject to a long lease with a nominal rent.
“The site is also located on the High Street and will be surrounded by complementary local authority developments and a new urban park.”
A new community diagnostic centre would form part of a “hub and spoke” model of healthcare delivery for the Tees Valley region – the centre being the hub.
It would be supported by existing acute hospitals within the Tees Valley, as well as diagnostic spokes at the University Hospital of Hartlepool, Redcar Primary Care Hospital and the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton.
The CCG report said that funding was in place to deliver an additional 60,000 diagnostic tests across radiology, cardiology and respiratory services over the next 12 months.
It also said a workforce strategy was intended to create about 100 new jobs across Teesside with the recruitment of staff part of ensuring the model remained sustainable in the long-term.
David Gallagher, chief officer for NHS Tees Valley CCG said: “The proposal to locate the central hub of the Tees Valley community diagnostics scheme in Stockton on Tees was approved by the Tees Valley CCG Governing body at its May meeting.
“The scheme as a whole will deliver significant benefits to everyone who lives within Tees Valley, by offering people access closer to home through one of the strategically located community spoke sites at Redcar, Northallerton and Hartlepool.
“By locating the central hub in Stockton, we also aim to improve and increase access and health outcomes for some of our most deprived populations and communities.
“The decision to approve the Stockton site is a significant step in the process to securing the approximate £30m capital investment for the area and the scheme as a whole, enabling it to be included in the full business case submission this summer.”
Mr Gallagher added: “This site was recommended following an extensive independent appraisal of available land and buildings across Tees Valley and will offer excellent access to patients for a range of diagnostic tests, to support earlier diagnosis and treatment in a number of areas.
“The new state of the art building will also deliver improved patients and staff experience with a high quality environment, enabling new ways of working with access to cutting edge design and technology.
“If the necessary funding is secured, the site is due to open in January 2025.”
Councillor Nigel Cooke, cabinet member for regeneration and housing at Stockton Council, said: “There is a clear desire for public and private sector partners to be in the heart of our new waterfront development and this, along with new council services on the southern part of the site, is certain to be a significant footfall driver.
“These facilities are set to be in a central location to serve the people of the borough and further afield.
“They will create a real destination point for people and provide an exciting combination of health, wellbeing and active leisure in Stockton town centre.”
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