New health centre for town - at last

PLANS for a new surgery in Colchester are finally being put into action - six years later than originally anticipated.The Highwoods health centre should hopefully be ready to open its doors early next year if the project goes to schedule.

PLANS for a new surgery in Colchester are finally being put into action - six years later than originally anticipated.

The Highwoods health centre should hopefully be ready to open its doors early next year if the project goes to schedule.

The new premises will replace the temporary service offered by the Bluebell Centre, a surgery which one local MP Bob Russell described as the worst he had ever seen.

The centre currently consists of demountable building shared by a pre-school and staff have persistently condemned the facilities as inadequate for the 2,000 patients at the practice.

Last year nurse Julie Southgate wrote a personal letter to Prime Minister Tony Blair condemning the state of the existing surgery, claiming staff and patients had received nothing but “false promises, disappointments and failure to provide decent premises.”

Mr Blair's office then forwarded the letter to the Department of Health, but they denied responsibility, blaming Colchester Primary Care Trust for the delays.

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A spokesman for Colchester Primary Care Trust said yesterday: “The delays were inevitable, it takes a lot of time for these types of plans to go through the system.

“There were a lot of people to consult, from the builders to members of the Highwoods community and we had to decide exactly what services we were going to offer.”

The new facilities, to be built next to the existing centre, will include a two-doctor GP surgery, health visitor services, family-focussed resources and a multi-purpose room for community activities.

Brendan Osbourne, chief executive at Colchester PCT, said: “We have long been working towards establishing a new facility for patients in the Highwoods area and we are confident this new centre will provide them with high level GP and health services.

“The new centre will also provide the Highwoods area with a fantastic community facility.”

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