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Community diagnostic centre within Beales store ‘a first’ for the NHS

The design team that developed the temporary NHS Nightingale emergency hospitals deployed at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020 has overseen the completion of the first of 40 community NHS diagnostic centres opening in England.

To reduce the current pressures on the NHS, interdisciplinary design consultancy, BDP, and its construction and facilities management partner, CFES, has been working with University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust to open a new centre for breast screening and diagnostics in the Beales department store in Poole. Situated in the town’s Dolphin Shopping Centre, it will also offer testing and assessments for orthopaedics, ophthalmology, and dermatology diagnoses. In what the practice dubs ‘a highly sustainable and efficient move’, the BDP team has reclaimed and reused materials from the demounted Nightingale hospitals across the UK to ‘build a one-stop-shop for much-needed and overdue checks, scans, and tests, in the community’. 

Paul Johnson, architect director at BDP, who also led the design of the Nightingale hospital at  London’s ExCeL Centre, explained: “This project is the first of its kind in the country. Not only does it support a circular economy by reusing the materials from the emergency COVID-19 hospitals in an existing building, but is also built on the same collaborative and sustainable methods of design and construction.

“NHS waiting lists are at an all-time high,” he continued, “and through good design, based on imaginative adaptation of space and recycling of equipment, we are creating real solutions to the problem. As a collaborative, interdisciplinary team, we are thinking bigger about the issues faced by today’s society. This new centre will help bring true health benefits to the community, reduce pressure on our NHS, and give a welcome boost to the retail sector. We are very proud to be a part of such an impactful and important initiative, and hope to deliver this flexible and repeatable solution for another 39 diagnostic centres in original, underutilised spaces countrywide.”

BDP adds that such new centres will not only benefit millions of people – ‘by providing earlier diagnostics and more convenient and accessible treatment in communities across the country’, but also contribute to the NHS’s Net Zero ambitions, ‘by providing multiple tests at one visit, reducing the number of patient journeys, and helping to cut carbon emissions and air pollution’.

Ashleigh Boreham, deputy director of Design and Transformation at Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The pandemic has affected the way NHS Trusts deliver services. Unfortunately, this meant many outpatients appointments had to be cancelled to reduce the spread of infection with the rise in number of patients with COVID-19. We have reached a critical point where we have to manage the backlog and protect the NHS, which has led us to the opening of this centre. I’m so pleased at the speed we have mobilised this solution, but not at all surprised. This team deserves a lot of credit.

“Adapting and repurposing unused retail space is going on elsewhere in the country, but to work within this existing centre and create something built simply for the outpatients, for diagnostics and assessment, is quite different – it’s a first.”

The community diagnostic village in Poole is now open for patients referred for assessments from local GPs.

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