A planning application for the £6.5million extension of the Bethesda Medical Centre in Palm Bay has been submitted to Thanet council.
The plans, revealed by The Isle of Thanet News last December, are to create a new “one stop shop” for people in Margate which can cater for up to 32,000 patients, allowing them to get medical and nursing services in one place.
If approved, the Bethesda centre will include specialist clinics for physiotherapy, audiology, ophthalmology, ultrasound and minor surgery, for patients from Margate and beyond – services which are currently only available in hospital.
The plans are for the centre to also have a gym for physio, an outside gym area, a bigger pharmacy, allotment space, a café and a community kitchen. It would be open evenings and weekends.
The new building will include space for teams of healthcare professionals to meet and to work together, including GPs, nurses, community, social care and mental health professionals and workers from voluntary organisations, where they can co-ordinate treatment for patients with complicated health needs.
The new facility, which will double in size from 12 consulting rooms to 24, would also provide education and training space for medical staff, which could be used by patient groups too.
According to documents lodged by Deacon and Richardson Architects the new facility will also almost double parking spaces from 51 to 100 after securing the existing coach park.
Plans reveal the Margate Task Force will also relocate to a new PCH Hub, which along with its own consulting spaces and minor surgery suite, will contain public educational services, an integrated multi-disciplinary team, and an administrative office for the task force.
The build will take place in four phases, allowing the main medical centre building to remain in operation while the large extension to the east is built. The remodelled centre is expected to be complete by 2020.
In the design document the architect states: “The existing medical centre, while fit for purpose, is now undersized for the number of registered patients (originally designed for 12,000 but now up to circa 19,000 following the closure of Union Row).
“With the merging of Northdown and Bethesda surgeries, plus additional much-needed services that will be located in the new centre, it is predicted that the patient list will grow to 32,000 by 2022 and this will require comprehensive facilities.
“The benefit of these facilities to the local and wider communities will be considerable, providing medical care, minor surgery, educational services, and general healthy living guidance, as well as taking pressure off local hospital services.
“ In addition to this, training facilities will be much improved to encourage both retention of newly trained GPs and promote development of new GPs for the Thanet area. While it is acknowledged that the proposed extension is large, the height and scale of the existing building has been retained, along with its original character. The amount of development has been driven by the brief, which in turn is informed by the genuine need to support greater patient numbers and provide wider ranging services for area.”
A letter from the NHS Thanet Clinical Commissioning Group says the new facility is needed for reasons including “the need to rationalise and relocate (the CCG estate) in order to provide cost savings.”
The letter also states: “East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust is the key provider of acute services within Thanet. It is facing a very challenging financial position with a significant budget deficit.
“The strategy for delivering acute care is under review and in the longer term it is anticipated that it will not be sustainable to continue to operate three acute hospitals across East Kent. However closure of the QEQM is not considered by the commissioners to be likely.”
In the letter it says the Bethesda development will have teams of specialists working together and so “will reduce costly duplication of services.”
The planning application was submitted this week. No decision has yet been made.
Isle GP plans
The proposal is part of wider plans to create three GP ‘practice groupings’ in Thanet, each serving between 30,000 and 60,000 patients, reported by The Isle of Thanet News in January.
The initiative is part of the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP), created by Kent and Medway health trusts, the NHS, Kent County Council and Medway Council, which sets out proposals to overhaul the health system, including changes to GP surgeries and hospitals.
The STP says extended GP practices will provide enhanced in-hours primary care and enable more evening and weekend appointments and hubs – with an even greater patient capacity – will offer multi-disciplinary teams delivering physical and mental health services locally at greater scale and seven day integrated health and social care.
Original proposals were for four GP groupings – dubbed Primary Care Houses (PCHs) – made up of the villages, Broadstairs; Margate and Ramsgate.
New proposals reduce that to three by combining the villages and Broadstairs (Westwood)