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Altrincham Wellbeing Centre confirms first healthcare tenants

Charlie Schouten

Two GP surgeries have confirmed they will be moving into the £24m building in the town centre, which has remained largely empty for the last nine months.

St John’s Medical Centre and the Barrington Road Medical Centre have both confirmed they will relocate to the 88,000 sq ft building in the autumn, around a year after it originally opened.

Once the GP surgeries move in, it will be the first time the NHS service hub has been used for healthcare use. Altrincham Library currently operates from the ground floor.

The centre opposite the town’s market completed in 2018 but has remained vacant after the CCG announced it was “revisiting its long-term strategy” for the building; three GP surgeries, including Barrington Road and St John’s, a paediatric service provider, and an NHS service centre were originally lined up to move in.

Documents showed the centre was facing a £1.9m funding gap before any of the proposed tenants could move in, with all six occupiers declining to move unless a “cost neutral position” was met.

Since then, a report by consultant EY, commissioned by the Greater Manchester Health & Social Care Partnership, slammed the scheme’s failings.

This report showed the three GP practices and other NHS services earmarked to occupy the building had never contractually agreed to do so; and there had never been potential tenants earmarked for 20% of the building’s empty space.

EY’s report said: “We obtained no evidence of robust evaluation of other locations or challenge to the size of the hub. Financial analysis was weak. The risk assessment was unreasonably optimistic. The governing body collectively failed to assess that the commercial risks and rewards of the programme were unfavourable to the Clinical Commissioning Group when approving the full business case and during decisions subsequently taken.”

Trafford’s CCG has since agreed to partially convert the building into office space at a cost of £1.5m; this will be on the upper floor, which was originally set aside for an NHS service centre.

Martyn Pritchard, accountable officer at NHS Trafford Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The decisions of the past surrounding the Altrincham Health and Wellbeing Centre have been well documented, but going forward our priority is to provide residents with high quality healthcare services from the centre that meet their needs.

“That’s why I am delighted that thousands of patients will now be able to benefit from this purpose-built state-of-the-art healthcare facility. We also hope to be in a position soon to announce that more healthcare services will be moving into the building.”

Since the report, there have been significant changes at the CCG to address its previous failings. This has included a three-stage review of its governance, including the recruitment of new board members, with a number of others stepping down following the end of two four-year terms. Further phases will review all the CCG’s sub-committees, along with a third phase to review the CCG’s policies and procedures.

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