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Plans to open health facilities at closed walk-in centre in Norwich

PUBLISHED: 06:30 22 August 2011 | UPDATED: 14:38 22 August 2011

Chloe Smith, Norwich North MP

Chloe Smith, Norwich North MP

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A health centre which controversially closed two years ago despite strong opposition is set to be put back into medical use.

Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust (NCH&C) is leading a project to redevelop the former walk-in centre building in Pound Lane, Dussindale, Thorpe St Andrew.

The community-based NHS Trust, which delivers more than 70 different NHS services locally, is planning to offer a number of health clinics from the site once refurbishment work is complete.

It is not yet clear which type of clinics will be run from the site but there is an indication that there will be a service to help people quit smoking and a midwifery clinic.

The news comes just over 24 months after the nurse-led walk-in centre closed in favour of the new GP-led Timber Hill Health Centre in the Mall shopping centre.

Its closure sparked outrage at the time and more than 5,600 people signed a petition in a bid to save the centre.

Plans to reintroduce health services to the site have been welcomed.

Jayne Rose, NCH&C’s locality manager for north-east Norfolk, said: “We have exciting plans to locate a number of clinics to the Dussindale building, which will serve the local community.

“As part of these plans, the site is currently in the process of being refurbished to make it more suitable for its future use.

“We are looking at providing a number of clinics from the site in the future, including NCH&C’s Smokefree Norfolk service, which will offer support to people who want to give up smoking.

“As well as being a new location for clinics, the site will also be used as a base for one of our community teams who will be closer to the patients they care for. This is expected to include some of our community nurses, who enable patients to leave hospital care sooner by providing care to people in their own homes or care homes.”

It is expected that renovation work will take a couple of months to complete and details of further clinics, which will be based at the site, will be revealed at a later date.

NCH&C officials did confirm that they plan to provide some space within the building for a community midwifery clinic, which will be provided by the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Chloe Smith, Norwich North MP, who has campaigned since 2008 to see health facilities remain on the site, said: “It’s very good to see health facilities returning to this site.

“It’s always been absolutely clear that facilities were needed on the east of Norwich - you only need to look at the usage figures of the old walk-in centre to see there was always a demand.

“I’m sure the new facilities will be well used and will be an asset to Thorpe St Andrew and the surrounding parts of east Norwich.”

The old walk-in centre, which closed in July 2009, used to see more than 5,000 patients a month for minor injuries and illnesses and offered “out of hours” services for when patients could not see their GP.

Since it closed, the building has been disused. There had been plans for a Sure Start children’s centre at the vacated site, which would have incorporated parenting and childcare information, midwifery and other health services. The plans were abandoned at the end of last year due to Norfolk County Council cuts.

Ian Mackie, Norfolk county councillor for Thorpe St Andrew and deputy town mayor, said: “We fought hard to maintain the walk-in centre in addition to the Castle Mall one because this was a purpose-built facility.

“We always thought there was a high demand for a health centre at the site and this was reflected in the enormous petition which had 5,000 signatures. We always thought it was short-sighted at the time.

“We are pleased that the NHS is taking steps to re-look at this and return it to medical use. There’s a demand for a medical facility of this kind on this side of Norwich. It will be well used and will hopefully take pressure off the main Norfolk and Norwich hospital.”

The new £2m Timber Hill Health Centre opened in July 2009. It opens from 7am to 9pm, seven days a week.

Are you campaigning to save a community service in the area where you live? Call reporter Kate Scotter on 01603 772326 or email kate.scotter@archant.co.uk

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