Proposals for a new £34million orthopaedic centre to treat patients from Ipswich, east Suffolk and north Essex have been given the final go-ahead.

The centre will be built at Colchester Hospital and health chiefs say it will be a "fantastic opportunity" to improve care and cut waiting times for treatment.

Planners have approved the project, which will see orthopaedic surgery moved out of Ipswich Hospital - a move opposed by nearly two-thirds of respondents during a consultation on the changes.

East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), which runs the hospitals, has been awarded government funding to create the specialist centre for planned (elective) orthopaedic surgery.

East Anglian Daily Times: Nick Hulme, chief executive of the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Ipswich and Colchester hospitalsNick Hulme, chief executive of the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Ipswich and Colchester hospitals (Image: Archant)

ESNEFT says the project will have many advantages for patients, including shorter waiting times for surgery and shorter stays in hospital, provision of an exemplar facility, better clinical outcomes, and new opportunities for training, education, research and innovation.

Colchester Borough Council's planning committee approved the project at the hospital in Turner Road.

Nick Hulme, chief executive of ESNEFT, said the new centre was a "fantastic opportunity" for patients and to improve care.

He said: "For some years we have been thinking about how we can improve the quality of care and reduce waiting times for people with orthopaedic conditions.

"One we thing we know is that by protecting the elective or planned pathway away from the emergency pathway, we can significantly reduce waiting times and improve quality of care to the people that we serve because it protects those beds during the winter when they can be taken by emergency patients.

"Even before Covid we had waiting times which were starting to creep towards six months, eight months, and we are now looking nationally at waiting times for orthopaedic patients of two years.

"Everything we can do to reduce those waiting times, I believe we have to do."

Mr Hulme said the new centre would be "a beacon of high quality care".

The development will see the three-storey 8,283sq m orthopaedic centre built on the site of the Mary Barron building, Cardiac Catheterisation Unit, and an administrative block, which will all be demolished, and part removal of the Elmstead Day Unit.

The new centre will comprise six operating theatres and up to 72 beds.

The building would also have a reception, waiting areas, admissions area, recovery and post-anaesthetic care, staff training and support areas, as well as storage and office space.

Work on the building is due to start later this year with completion by the end of 2022.