Expansion plans good for patients

Hundreds of new patients will be able to receive treatment at a Lowestoft medical centre after major expansion plans were announced. Health bosses have agreed to pump £325,000 into the project at the Crestview Medical Centre, in Crestview Drive, amid fears increasing demand would lead to new patients being turned away.

Hundreds of new patients will be able to receive treatment at a Lowestoft medical centre after major expansion plans were announced last night.

Health bosses have agreed to pump £325,000 into the project at the Crestview Medical Centre, in Crestview Drive, amid fears increasing demand would lead to new patients being turned away.

The number of GPs will double to four while there will be an increase in the number of consulting rooms from three to seven to allow nursing staff and healthcare assistants to provide better services.

The Great Yarmouth and Waveney Primary Care Trust (PCT) agreed to pay for most of the extension after hearing the centre, which has more than 4,200 patients on its books, was in an area likely to see a huge expansion in housing over the next few years.

Crestview is a branch of the Alexandra Road practice in the town centre and both have reported a consistent rise in the number of patients seeking treatment.

Barbara Craddock, the practice's business manager, said: "There is enormous pressure on both our surgeries in terms of space, and without this extension we would have to give serious consideration to turning away new patients.

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"We have six GPs, two of whom work from Crestview, but the expansion means we will be taking on two extra doctors. The first will start next month and the second, a GP working single-handedly in his own practice in the town, will join us on July 1 and bring his 2,500 patients with him."

The Waveney area is facing huge pressure on its infrastructure, with nearly 6,000 homes set to be built by 2021 and a group of developers battling for permission to build 800 houses at Oulton, near the Crestview practice.

Mike Stonard, chief executive of the PCT, said: "We are very pleased to be supporting this important local development, which will ensure the practice can expand to meet local growing demand as well as providing better facilities and a better environment for patients."

A nurse practioner, practice nurse and health care assistant are also among staff working at Crestview, but not at the same time because of the current lack of space.

Along with the increase in doctors and consulting rooms, patients can also expect to see improvements to a number of facilities, including an automatic check-in system for patients, a bigger waiting area, improved disabled access to toilets and a buggy park for parents.

The practice is also expected to expand its trainee doctor scheme.

A PCT spokesman said: "The practice has recently become a training practice and has one trainee GP, but this num-ber is expected to rise in the future. The partners believe that taking on trainees will help to foster an atmosphere of education and training, which will benefit patients and help with the recruitment of GPs in the future."

The 15-week project to expand the centre has got under way and is expected to be completed by June 22. The extension is being built on the front of the existing building, but the practice will remain open at all times.

The PCT's investment is being made despite it having to making £10m in budget savings, because, its spokesman said, the practice had made a very strong case for its expansion.