NEW details of the medical centres set to replace Orsett Hospital have been praised by councillors who said they provide reassurance and address long-running concerns.
Fresh information about the four integrated medical centres was discussed at a meeting last week where it was explained that the facilities will deliver a new model of care that puts primary, community, social and mental health care all under one roof.
The centres will be built in Tilbury, Corringham, Grays and Purfleet to replace Orsett Hospital which is due to close as part of a wider £118million plan to reshape how health care is delivered across Essex.
Speaking at the meeting on Thursday, Roger Harris, corporate director of Adults, Housing and Health at Thurrock Council said: “It is important to say this is a very, very significant transformation programme.
“It is not just about building four health centres, we’re talking about a whole new way of delivering health and social community care and also significantly enhancing primary care services in the community.”
Under the plans each centre will have a designated area for the delivery of primary health care services, which is where patients will go to be treated for a range of medical conditions such as those traditionally delivered at a GP practice.
Meanwhile, services such as social care and mental health care will be delivered using “multifunctional” rooms that are interchangeable, depending on which service wishes to use the room. Council documents explain that this will “maximise the use of the space and limit void time, supporting the affordability of the centre”.
Councillor Victoria Holloway, who has previously been critical of the plans, said that she is “really impressed” with the planning and she feels “much more reassured”.
When questions were raised about how health authorities will be able to recruit a large enough workforce to staff the facilities, Tania Sitch, partnership director of Adults Health and Social Care in Thurrock, expressed confidence due to the “new and innovative” ways of working.
“We are finding that when we do new and innovative things we are able to attract people,” she said.
“We have been getting lots of people visiting Thurrock because they like the model of transformation that we are doing and colleagues are coming here from all over the place – from London, from Essex and from other places to hear about our transformation work.”
She added that the new centres allow new and non-traditional roles to be created and that will help improve staff retention.
Support from the Secretary of State
Plans to include the closure of Orsett Hospital in a wider scheme to shake-up health care across Essex caused anger from residents who see the hospital as a valuable part of the borough.
In January, members of Thurrock’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee referred the plans to health secretary Matt Hancock and urged him to scrutinise the plans.
Following a review by an independent panel, Mr Hancock said he did not agree with the concerns over the closure of Orsett and pointed out that there is an explicit agreement that the hospital will not close until the new integrated medical centres had opened.
During the council meeting on Thursday, Tom Abell, deputy chief executive of the Basildon and Thurrock Hospital Trust, explained the reason for the closure is demand for health services to be closer to people’s homes.
He said: “People wanted to see more services closer to where they life, specifically blood tests and out-patients, and in parallel we have been having infrastructure issues in that we are unable to continue to provide services at Orsett on an ongoing long-term basis. We have increasingly had problems in terms of the building being functional.”