Plymouth health hub in doubt as government £41m funding pulled

[The policy to build 40 new hospitals by 2030 was one of the key domestic pledges Boris Johnson announced before the 2019 election. This manifesto and subsequent electoral mandate is being used to legitimise the Sunak regime. – Owl]

Plymouth’s super health hub at Colin Campbell Court is in danger of not being built after the Government confirmed £41m of funding for the project is not available. Despite demolition work having started in Western Approach the health minister said there is no national NHS cash, which would have underpinned the scheme.

William Telford www.plymouthherald.co.uk

It means the project is now in severe jeopardy. The West End Health and Wellbeing Hub was heralded as being highly important for regenerating the lower end of the city centre and relieving pressure on Derriford Hospital.

Three city GPs’ practices would have relocated into the building too. Construction work was due to start in early 2023, but the Government has confirmed that NHS England funding will not be available and had never actually been committed.

Luke Pollard, Labour MP for Sutton and Devonport, said: “If the project gets binned because ministers have withdrawn the £41m of funding, the detrimental knock-on-effect this will have on our city’s health cannot be understated. Our city’s health GP service is facing collapse.

“People in Plymouth deserve better than a creaking health service. The Government cannot be allowed to deny us a project which could provide a lifeline for Plymouth’s health.”

At a Westminster Hall debate today he asked health minister Robert Jenrick to restore the funding or find it from elsewhere. He said: “What are the options to ensure we can build the super health hub?”

Mr Jenrick confirmed there was no national NHS funding available but said £250m had been given to the Devon Integrated Care Board, for the next three years, and that board could fund the Plymouth building if it deemed it a priority, The minister said he would visit Plymouth and broker a meeting involving Devon Integrated Care Board, stakeholders such as the city council and NHS England to look for an “innovative or creative” solution.

The West End Health and Wellbeing Centre, which at 5,700sq m is bigger than Colin Campbell House, was planned to front onto Western Approach and fill a huge part of the car park in down-at-heel Colin Campbell Court. Plans show an eye-catching three-storey block with living, plant-covered “green walls” and a glass-roofed inner “green courtyard”, with the entire building surrounded by landscaped gardens. Demolition of stores fronting Western Approach is underway.

How the planned West End Health and Wellbeing Centre, with its glazed roof creating a 'tunnel of light' though the building, in Plymouth could look

How the planned West End Health and Wellbeing Centre, with its glazed roof creating a ‘tunnel of light’ though the building, in Plymouth could look (Image: KTA)

It was planned for the building, envisaged as one of a number of Cavell Centre in-community health and wellbeing hubs, housing the North Road West Medical Centre, Adelaide Surgery and Armada Surgery GPs’ centres, which would close and move into the building. It would also house outpatient services provided by University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, mental health, community health and diagnostic services, including X-ray, alongside a pharmacy, community kitchen and dining area, cafe, mental health area, and bookable interview and voluntary sector rooms, and small meeting “pods”, on the ground floor.

The project was also aimed at being the first segment in a regeneration of the Colin Campbell Court area, which could eventually see the refurbishment of the art deco Colin Campbell House, and the demolition and replacement of some buildings fronting Western Approach and Market Avenue with blocks of flats. And, being open seven days a week with up to 250 staff and around 3,000 appointments a day, it was predicted it would bring a huge economic boost to the area.

Mr Pollard said Plymouth’s health service is already at “breaking point” and “facing collapse”, despite the heroic effort of staff. He said some patients have been reportedly waiting more than 24 hours in an ambulance, and for an average of more than nine hours before being either admitted, treated or discharged from Derriford Hospital.

The health hub would also be based in Stonehouse, an area with the greatest health needs and lowest life expectancy in the city. Stonehouse accounts for about 20% of Derriford Hospital’s admissions and the new NHS facility was designed to improve access to health services and reduce the need for emergency admissions with early intervention and prevention.

Mr Pollard also stressed the project would be expected to generate significant financial benefits to the area, along with hopes that the investments generated would revitalise a part of the city centre that has “not received much love in recent years”.

He said: ““The super health hub is Plymouth’s flagship health project to address the GP crisis. By bringing health to the high street the aim is to treat more people earlier, prevent illness and cut emergency admissions at Derriford.

“This project matters a great deal to me. I have been campaigning for a super health hub in the city centre for years because I strongly believe the facility could be truly transformative for health in Plymouth. “

The project is a cross-party initiative and Richard Bingley, Tory leader of Plymouth City Council, said: “The West End Health and Wellbeing Centre would bring a massive range of benefits to people in Stonehouse – parts of which are in the top 1% of deprived areas in the country. The building and, most importantly, the new model of care it will deliver with integrated health and care services in one place, is a key development in addressing some of the vast health inequalities in the area.”

Mary Aspinall, Plymouth Labour’s spokesperson on health, said: “I am absolutely shocked that the rug is being pulled from under this huge investment in our city which would provide about 3,000 appointments a day and employ 250 staff. We will fight it tooth and nail. People in Plymouth do not deserve to be treated this way.”

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