Sudbury’s new £10million health facility “worth 10-year battle”

Sudbury Community Health Centre.

Sudbury Community Health Centre. - Credit: Archant

A community’s 10-year battle to retain vital health services in Sudbury was last night hailed a “great success story” as a new £10million centre was opened for the first time.

An open day at the new Sudbury Community Health Centre for locals to have a look round. Lana (right)

An open day at the new Sudbury Community Health Centre for locals to have a look round. Lana (right) and Isabelle Norton-Berry try out the new play area. - Credit: Archant

More than 600 people flocked to an open day at the state-of-the-art Sudbury Community Health Centre at the weekend, which will offer X-ray, physiotherapy, blood testing, audiology, podiatry, dentistry, GP services and more under one roof from January 12.

It will replace former facilities at Walnuttree Hospital, St Leonard’s Hospital, Acton Lane Clinic and the Siam GP surgery.

Sudbury was originally due to get a new hospital more than 40 years ago, but legal wrangles over land and changes in the way the National Health Service operates meant that the idea had to be shelved.

The hard-fought local campaign to secure a new modern purpose-built facility has been ongoing for more than a decade. But people attending an open day at the Church Field Road site on Saturday - including members of a community liaison group set up to push the campaign forward - said it was a “job well done” and “well worth the fight”.

An open day at the new Sudbury Community Health Centre for locals to have a look round.

An open day at the new Sudbury Community Health Centre for locals to have a look round. - Credit: Archant

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One of the centre’s champions, local councillor Nigel Bennett, described it as a “great success story”.

He said: “The community fought a good campaign to prevent services from being transferred to West Suffolk Hospital, which was a very real threat.

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“Although we have lost a number of beds from Walnuttree hospital, we have still managed to secure 12 NHS beds in Hazel Court (care home) and most importantly we are keeping all of the services in the town, as well as gaining a few more.”

Chilton Parish Council and Sudbury Hospital WATCH chairman Peter Clifford said it was gratifying to see so many people showing a keen interest in the centre.

He added: “We had 110 people through the doors within the first 15 minutes which is significant because a lot of what you see here today has only happened because of what the community has done.

“After all the legal wrangles, credit must go to the NHS for recognising that this (the community health centre) was the way forward and for working with the local community to build up trust and ultimately get the best result.”

Joy Dodman, from Sudbury, took a tour of the site. She said: “First impressions are that the centre is absolutely wonderful and just what Sudbury needs. It’s a very impressive building.”

On a notice board in the foyer, another visitor commented “what a great local health centre for local people with all departments under one roof”.

On the rest of the NHS-owned site, it is hoped that a nursing or care home could eventually be built. But Lesley Ford-Platt, who chaired the health centre’s tenant group committee and led a protest march in Sudbury to retain local health services, believes the fight to secure more hospital beds should now resume.

She said: “Now is the time to plan for the extension of the site for a community hospital. The Government’s policy has changed in favour of smaller hospitals and we could do something here along the lines of Braintree Community Hospital which offers day surgery and minor operations.”

Isabel Cockayne, head of communications at NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said there were many teams working in the neighbourhood that would all be brought together under one roof at the new centre. This is part of a scheme being implemented by the NHS to encourage social services and voluntary organisations to work together to ensure that healthcare demand is met.

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