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Bold Medical Centre Design for a New Era

Work has completed on a new £5.5m medical centre in St Leonards, Hastings. The three-storey 20,000ft2 building houses two GP surgeries and a pharmacy in Bexhill Road next to West St Leonards Community Centre. It was designed by Liverpool-headquartered architect firm Brock Carmichael as a strikingly modern building, part of a vision by funder Assura for the 2030 health and wellbeing centre of the future.

Brock Carmichael

St Leonards Medical Centre now acts as a modern health hub for up to 20,000 patients in the south west area of Hastings. It houses the Carisbrooke Surgery, previously operating from portacabins, and the High Glades Medical Centre on Bexhill Road and provides on-site parking for patients’ use. As a health hub, it is able to facilitate services currently given by other providers more locally as well as easing pressure on the local hospital.

Over the past few years, West St Leonards had to cope with the closure of two surgeries, South Saxon and Essenden Road, with patients having to travel further to access healthcare. The need for this development was very clear.

The building – funded and acquired by Warrington-based specialist primary care investor, Assura – was delivered by Till Developments and constructed by locally-based Westridge Construction working closely with Brock Carmichael. It was designed to BREEAM ‘Excellent’ with rooftop HVAC plantroom, 26 consulting rooms, two GP surgeries, pharmacy, six treatment rooms and a Skype-enabled consulting and training suite.

Construction commenced in August 2019 and continued through the pandemic. Westridge Construction put site management measures in place to reduce all opportunity for social contact on site to continue construction, despite the challenges of coronavirus, in line with Government advice, HSE and CIC guidance. Construction was completed both on time and to budget.

Senior Partner at Carisbrook Surgery, Nick MacCarthy, said: “The new building is vital for our patients, which opens at a time when the role of primary care and health services in the community has never been more important.”

Senior Development Manager at Assura, Ashley Seymour, said: “We are delighted to have helped this important primary care centre come to fruition and really pleased with the team who have managed to deliver it on time, despite the pandemic. We are confident that the new facility will transform healthcare provision in this area and have a positive long-term impact on the community.”

Assura’s CEO, Jonathan Murphy, added: “Our mission is to try to create places – buildings and exterior environments – which move forward from the sense of a patient waiting for something to happen to them. Having primary care in the right place in the health ecosystem – literally and metaphorically – is where that shift can happen. Infrastructure could be truly transformational for the NHS.”

He continued: “The Health Infrastructure Plan was launched by the Government in 2019 with the pledge of £850m for hospital maintenance and upgrades to acute facilities. Since then, the operating environment for all of the NHS’ buildings has changed dramatically. Where last year, trusts and primary care teams were battling to stay on top of the maintenance backlog and capacity challenges of an estate which – in some places – pre-dates the health service itself, the NHS’ premises have now become crucial tools in the ongoing management of the pandemic.

“More than £4bn has been pledged for immediate hospital facilities improvements and maintenance, and for preparations to cope with a second wave of coronavirus cases. But thinking about ‘building back better’ and investment in social infrastructure, are we thinking enough about the transformative power of the NHS’ local places and spaces in primary care?”

The medical centre design of the future Assura has been working on the medical centre design of the future – exploring how the physical design and layout will work with primary care’s growing use of digital technology, remote consultation and diagnostics. Assura’s CEO, Jonathan Murphy, said: “2021 has shown us just how important this work is. Working with YouGov, we asked doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals for their reflections on the healthcare premises they’ve worked at or visited since March. While just over half (55%) said sites they’ve used were fit for purpose during the pandemic so far, 27% said premises had not worked that well or at all well for the services provided within.”

Concerns about lack of space to implement social distancing in both clinical and staff areas, infection risk in older buildings and inflexible layouts were among the challenges flagged by workers across organisations, such as hospitals, health centres and mental health sites. Assura also asked what they would want to see in community medical centre buildings of the future, based on their experiences of care during the pandemic so far. The most called-for features were:

•  More flexible space which can be adapted quickly when needed (70%)

•  The ability to divide the building or isolate specific areas (64%)

•  Both face-to-face consulting rooms and smaller remote consulting spaces (52%)

•  External spaces for both patients and staff (49%)

•  Intercom systems for communicating with patients outside the building or in different zones (42%)

•  Room for more onsite diagnostic options away from hospital (42%)

•  Room for more onsite treatments away from hospital (41%).

Jonathan Murphy, Assura’s CEO, continued: “With the NHS Long Term Plan and experiences of the pandemic to guide us, the common denominator is flexible, modern capacity in primary care. Hospital upgrades are desperately needed, but as the NHS attempts to address care backlogs and as GPs look ahead to a future where clicks and consultations combine, the most transformative infrastructure investment would be in creating the right space for consultation (both digital and traditional), diagnostics and treatment close to home.

“Clearly, we all hope we’ll never experience a situation like the pandemic again – but there is so much we can learn from it to create the health spaces of the future. By the time we get to 2030, our design vision of the future, a 2030 health and wellbeing centre will be old news. But today, we hope it at least acts as a starting point for conversations, ideas and innovation.”

Contact Brock Carmichael

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