Headlines: November 10th, 2006



The one hundredth new health centre built under the NHS Local Improvement Finance Trust programme opened this week and was immediately followed by the opening of another centre with one more due to welcome its first patients next Monday. The programme was set up to improve community health services in some of the most deprived areas of the country.

The 100th building, the Longview Drive Primary Care Centre, opened in St Helens earlier this week with the Frail Elders’ Centre at East Ham in London opening the following day. On Monday the Vermuyden Centre will open at Thorne, near Doncaster. Seventy more are NHS LIFT health centres and GP surgeries are under construction and dozens more are being planned. The Longview Drive Centre, which cost three million pounds, houses a GP practice with an enhanced minor surgery suite. It also offers patients access to a wide range of services under the same roof, including health visitors, midwives and specialist cardiac nurses.

The facilities opened under the LIFT programme offer many services more usually found only in hospitals. In addition to GP services they have delivered ‘super surgeries’ in which NHS patients can have minor surgery for hernia repairs, sports injuries and even vasectomies. In some cases, X-rays, medical tests, speech and language therapy, chiropody, physiotherapy and dentistry, are also available. LIFT is part of the Department of Health’s programme to modernise GP premises. It has seen more than 500 new one-stop health centres been built since 2001, including those built under LIFT, and in the last five years more than 3,000 GP surgeries, almost a third of the total, have been substantially refurbished or replaced.

There are currently 49 NHS LIFT projects at different stages of development, of which 42 have reached financial close and have commissioned facilities with a total capital value of 951 million pounds. The Health Minister, Lord Warner said, “These are purpose built facilities, where GP services are often on the same site as pharmacies and social services, and are not simple like-for-like replacements. The centres are more convenient for patients, particularly older patients and those with long-term conditions, as they offer more care closer to home.” He added that the new buildings also helped improve the morale of staff working in them and helped attract more GPs to inner city areas.