A special groundbreaking event has signalled the start of building works on a new NHS Tees Valley health centre offering health checks, tests and scans.
The event marked the first spade going in the ground in the construction of the centre on the site of the former Castlegate Shopping Centre in Stockton Town Centre.
The centre will provide rapid tests for a range of health issues including cancer, heart and lung disease.
The event included representatives from organisations leading the scheme including North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust and South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board and NTH Solutions.
It also involved figures from building contractor Kier, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council and local MPs Matt Vickers and Alex Cunningham.
Local Stockton woman Susan Parr was invited along as special guest to put the first spade in the ground – she was one of the first patients to be treated as a diagnostic patient when another part of the community based service started at Lawson Street Health Centre in Stockton.
Susan, who is 63 and lives in Fairfield, said: “I remember being surprised to be told that I could receive a scan at the health centre rather than in a hospital.
“I was in and out in no time at all, it was so convenient and quick.
“This diagnostic facility is fantastic news for Stockton – I am a local woman and a real champion of the town centre.
“This will not only help people like me get the answers they need to any health issues but also help in the regeneration of the area.”
Phil Woolfall, clinical director for radiology at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said at the event: “This is the latest milestone in our ambition to provide faster and more accessible diagnostic services for our population across the Tees Valley.
“This diagnostic centre will help make healthcare available for all – offering rapid access to scans, tests and health checks.
“It is also exciting in that it is a joint programme run by the area’s two health trusts and a multi-professional team of health experts from both.”
Richard Hartley, consultant radiologist at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, who attended the event, said: “Diagnostic centres are the future of healthcare.
“This new centre will give both health trusts the exciting opportunity to expand capacity and move some of the care we provide off the acute hospital sites.
“The centre will also not only help improve health outcomes for our population but also to regenerate the town centre and surrounding area.”
The site will provide a number of diagnostic functions including MRI scans, CT scans, ultrasound scans, cardiology, x-rays, blood tests and respiratory checks.
Based in community settings such as towns, shopping centres and football stadiums, diagnostic hubs house a range of equipment, including MRI, CT, X-ray and ultrasound scanners and offer services including blood tests or heart rhythm and blood pressure monitoring.
The centre will sit on the southern end of the former shopping centre site as part of a wider transformation of the high street led by the council.
Councillor Nigel Cooke, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Housing at Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, said: “This is a major development for local people which will be located on a well-connected site with associated car parking and vehicle access.
“The centre is part of the Stockton Waterfront site, forming part of our plans for a new regeneration phase for Stockton Town Centre, making it a destination location with a fantastic urban park.
“I am looking forward to seeing the progress of the development and how it can contribute to making these essential services more accessible for our communities.”
The diagnostic centre is expected to open in summer 2024.