Photo gallery: Healthy ambition becomes a reality at £14m Aylsham care complex

St Michael's Care Complex in Aylsham. Resident Margaret Sheail 81 in her room with Rees Coghlan MBE,

St Michael's Care Complex in Aylsham. Resident Margaret Sheail 81 in her room with Rees Coghlan MBE, founder and trustee of ACT.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

One man's 20 year dream to create a community health hub has become a reality.

St Michael's Care Complex in Aylsham. Rees Coghlan MBE, founder and trustee of ACT, chatting to resi

St Michael's Care Complex in Aylsham. Rees Coghlan MBE, founder and trustee of ACT, chatting to resident Elsie Wilton 88.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

The St Michael's Care Complex, off Cawston Road, Aylsham, cost approximately £14m and is the first site of its kind in the county – and possibly Britain.

It was the idea of former pharmacist Rees Coghlan, 87, founder of the charity Aylsham Care Trust (ACT).

Mr Coghlan said: 'I'm very emotional about it. I'm really pleased to see it happen. You never know if something is going to happen and you hope and pray.'

The complex was fully opened before Christmas and includes 30 apartments for independent living with 24 hour care, an 86-bedroom care home, a health centre and pharmacy, and a community centre for elderly people on the site as well as people from the surrounding area.

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Mr Coghlan added: 'When I was a pharmacist in Aylsham I saw there was a real need for more care in the town. The need for comprehensive care and partnership was the driving force. Now the whole complex is completed we have the means of providing those services – particularly, but not exclusively, for older and disabled people.'

The area in which the complex stands is next to the redundant St Michael's Hospital and was sold to Hopkins Homes by ACT in 2006.

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Land earmarked for housing, health and social care facilities was then transferred to partners of the site –ACT, Wherry Housing Association Trust, Norfolk Community Health and Care (NCHC) NHS trust, NorseCare and Runwood Housing.

Geoff Pride, from Runwood Housing, which runs the St Michael's Court care home, said: 'It is a one stop shop for the elderly in Aylsham. There are not many social complexes like this one in the country.'

The ACT community centre includes a café, a hall for conferences, exercise classes and church services, and counselling rooms.

Groups which use the building include Aylsham Bridge Club, Aylsham Art and Crafts group, Broadland School of Dance and film clubs.

Margaret Seville, 77, lives at the care home and attends the Slimming World sessions at the community centre.

She said: 'It is very good being here because it is a light and airy space. It reassures me that the different facilities are right next door to me.'

Another resident, Margaret Sheail, 81, said: 'I think it is marvellous. It is nice to feel that you can be independent and there is always an activity going on here.

'Before the pharmacy opened last year I had to go to Boots for a prescription and that was very difficult because you had to wait for over a week for it to arrive. Now I can go across the road.'

Freda Harthen, 87, who lives in the Wherry Housing Association-owned Green Lane View apartments, said the complex was a lovely place to live and was somewhere where she wanted to spend the rest of her life.

The independent Willows Pharmacy is part of the £900,000 health centre which runs clinics, stop smoking services, occupational therapy, podiatry, speech and language therapy and specialist neurological rehabilitation.

It is also a base for one of NCHC's community nursing and therapy teams.

Suzie Mallett, a neurological specialist nurse who runs weekly sessions at the health centre, said patients who previously had to travel far for clinics had problems because they became tired.

She added: 'It is better on the complex because they have more time and leave with a better understanding of what was talked about and take away more from the sessions. The health complex is fantastic.'

If you would like to volunteer for ACT, which works in the Aylsham community, ring 01263 733385, email or visit

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