Health ministers are pressuring the NHS to complete a new health centre in east London to achieve the Prime Minister’s promise of upgrades to 20 hospitals before the next general election.
Construction is yet to start on a £17million Health and Wellbeing Centre in Hornchurch, east London, which was approved by a Havering Council planning committee in November last year.
Situated in a corner of the former St George’s Hospital site, most of which was sold to a housing developer, the hub is expected to offer GP services and non-urgent care to at least 300 patients a day.
Project manager for the new centre, Keith Flaxman told a Havering Council health scrutiny meeting last night: “Clearly there’s a huge amount of interest in the St George’s site, because it’s probably going to be the only one of the prime minister’s 40 hospitals that will be open before next election.
“So we have a minister for health having what’s called a ‘deep dive’ in a few weeks time, and we get constant questions from the Cabinet Office about where we are with it, so there’s a lot of pressure to deliver it as quickly as we can.”
He added that early works are hoped to start by this summer, with fast building “modern methods” reaching completion by the end of 2023.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are committed to improving health infrastructure across the country including delivering 40 new hospitals by 2030 and over 70 hospital upgrades.
“The £17 million St George’s Health and Well Being Hub is one of the hospital upgrades announced by the Prime Minister in 2019.”
The hub is set to be an integrated health centre, offering GP appointments as well as other non-urgent services, such as early-cancer diagnostics, frailty clinics for the elderly and renal services.
Flaxman said the integrated health centre is a “new model” where patients can be seen “all at the same time” rather than coming back for different scans or services.
Moving non-urgent renal services from Queen’s Hospital in Romford would also free up more space for the emergency department there, he added.
Councillors laughed as Flaxman told them the Greater London Authority (GLA) refused to allow more than 110 parking spaces on the site during the planning stage.
He said: “But the way the GLA looks at it, in 20 or 30 years there will be much less cars around… it’s been a difficult conversation with the GLA.”
The centre is currently served by three bus routes and is a ten minute walk from Hornchurch station.
Flaxman suggested the NHS could apply to remove green belt designation from the land so a first floor can be added to the parking area.