Stephen Sumner Weston Mercury Published: September 1, 2021
An image of Studio Hive’s plans for the new health centre at Weston Rugby Club shared at the consultation event. – Credit: Studio Hive
Health chiefs are in talks with public transport providers to secure access to a new £3.2million health centre for Weston.
Plans are set to be submitted next month for the £25million redevelopment of Weston Rugby Club’s Sunnyside Road site that will also provide new sports facilities, shops and 200 homes, and set aside space for a primary school.
When it opens in 2023 the new health centre is set to serve the 11,500 patients at the Graham Road surgery, which is set to close.
Project leaders say they will not be distracted from the existing issues at the “past its sell-by date” practice and spoke out about the demands faced by the NHS.
Linda Buczek from One Care, the GP federation supporting practices across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, told a consultation event on August 25: “We’re absolutely aware of the challenges being faced at Graham Road at the moment and in a huge number of practices right across the country.
“It’s probably the most challenging time general practice has ever had. We’ve experienced a 30 per cent increase in demand with associated percentage drop of staff availability, particularly GPs, particularly in Weston. It’s very challenging to have high demand and a desperate need to support all our patients, with a real struggle to recruit GPs.
“Staff are doing everything they possibly can to address that. It’s been raised right up to government level, the concern at the underfunding of general practice across the country, and particularly in areas like Weston with the deprivation levels you have.
“Staff have been working flat out for 18 months.
“Practices across our patch have been dealing with 1.5million telephone calls a month, which is bigger than a lot of massive call centres you get selling insurance. It’s been a massive struggle to keep everything going.”
Ms Buzcek said the practice’s “absolute priority” was to improve healthcare and the new building at Weston Rugby Club would allow them to do it.
The site was chosen way ahead of 17 other options but she recognised that one of the greatest areas of concern was around travel and accessibility.
North Somerset councillors have said it would be unacceptable to have a new health centre “marooned” on the edge of town.
Ms Buczek said: “We’re in touch with Network Rail and local bus companies and community transport providers.
“It’s difficult to talk about specifics as we’re a couple of years away. I think it’s positive that there will be a large number of flats there who will also need public transport. We will look to the local authority to try and address some of these things.
“You can’t expect the bus companies to say today what bus routes will be available in two years’ time.”
She said some practices operate voluntary car services to pick up and drop off patients.
The rugby club will be redeveloped by Studio Hive. Managing director Jason Collard said the plans will be submitted next month and he hopes they will be approved by the end of the year.
He added: “We’ve seen nothing but support from the local authority so far.”