TREATING TOWN TO pounds 30M; EXCLUSIVE One-stop health centre planned.
BILLINGHAM could be in line for a new pounds 30m stateof-the-art health and community complex.
The innovative centre would include closely linked health and care facilities on a single, convenient, town centre site.
A range of community-based adult and children's services will include outpatient appointments and treatments previously only available in a hospital setting.
There will also be a residential Extra Care housing scheme for elderly people. Community facilities including a library and information and advice centre would share the site.
The Government has accepted initial plans put forward by Stockton-on-Tees Teaching PCT and Stockton Council.
The news provides a massive boost to the regeneration of Billingham town centre, on top of the pounds 15m redevelopment of the Forum leisure complex set to begin this summer.
The council and PCT have worked closely to develop the plans, which are based on an extensive review of the area's future needs and trends.
The project is closely linked to the NHS Momentum: Pathways to Healthcare proposals to modernise the way health services are provided across the area.
By providing additional facilities and services in the local community, the project will complement proposed changes to local hospital services which include a new hospital at Wynyard to replace those currently in Stockton and Hartlepool.
Councillor Ann McCoy, Stockton Council's Cabinet member for adult services and health, said: "We are committed to delivering higher quality care for our communities, closer to people's homes.
"The new centre will represent a huge stride towards achieving this aim for Billingham.
"It will be a one-stop centre where people can access a whole range of services."
Chris Willis, chief executive of the PCT said: "This is an exciting and innovative partnership project which will provide us with an opportunity to modernise health and social care services."
She added that the town centre extra care services would "significantly reduce" reliance on local hospital services both before and after the new hospital, built at Wynyard in around 2014.
Although the new health complex must still complete further stages of Government approval, the award of a Stage 1 pass by the Department of Health is an important step forward.
Further local consultation and an outline planning application is expected shortly. No specific site has been identified yet, but if all goes to plan it could be operational by 2012.
It would be financed under the Government's Private Finance Initiative.
HEALTH CARE FOR THE FUTURE: Cllr Ann McCoy, left, and Chris Willis from the PCT hope the new complex will modernise services for the town Picture IAN McINTYRE