Three GP practices - one roof

MARK NICHOLLS A multi-million-pound healthcare centre bringing three GP practices under one roof was opened in Norwich yesterday.

MARK NICHOLLS

A multi-million-pound healthcare centre bringing three GP practices under one roof was opened in Norwich yesterday.

The St Stephen's Gate Medical Centre, completed three months ahead of schedule and the largest new medical centre in Norwich, now has 10 GPs and 19 clinicians and nurses and will have a patient list of 13,500.

Dr Richard Larsson, a partner in the centre and the lead GP in negotiations over the premises, said: "What is different about this development is that it brings together three practices that all had inadequate premises.

"It gives patients more choice over the doctors to see, there is more space, it means we do not have to room-share and there is a much better environment for patients in comfortable, modern, state-of-the-art premises."

The facilities include a health education and minor operations suite, 14 consulting rooms and conference facilities with Boots operating a dispensing pharmacy on the site, disabled access and underground car parking.

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The building was developed at a cost of £3.5m by Kent-based Cathedral Healthcare - which builds health centres and other public buildings across the UK - and is leased by the new practice, which brings together the former practices of Drs Larsson and Smirl in Victoria Street; Dr Gall and partners from Unthank Road; and Dr Golder's practice from West Pottergate.

Dr Larsson said feedback had already been positive from patients and a number had commented on how appropriate it was to have such a healthcare facility on the site of the old Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

Cathedral Healthcare director Victor Newman said: "This is a bespoke building where every single element and specification was carried out in agreement with the GPs and other clinicians."

The company has also been working closely with the primary care trusts over its construction and specific-ation.

Kim Dyke, who is a trainee nurse practitioner at the centre, said: "Any new building is a clear improvement over old NHS premises, but this is bright, light, spacious, we have doctors nearby to call on for advice and it is brilliant having a pharmacy on the premises."

The centre was formally opened by Norwich South MP Charles Clarke. He unveiled a piece of artwork, called Empire by Robin Kirsten, formally to declare the building - which has been in operation for four weeks - open. He said it emphasised what could be achieved by working in partnership with other organisations to provide healthcare facilities.

Roger Moore, chairman of St Stephen's Community Partnership, said: "It is good to have all the doctors under one roof and within easy walking distance for many people, particularly those who are elderly. I love it and it has been good to be involved in the project all along."