Prime hands over new-look St Cath’s

Barry Turnbull

Services have started opening at the new £32m St Catherine's health centre in Prenton for NHS Wirral developed by Prime.

The tenants are NHS Wirral, providing services such as audiology, two GP surgeries, pharmacy. Three quarters of the space is now occupied and the rest of the site works including landscaping is due for completion in April.

Designed by healthcare specialist, One Creative Environments, the centre comprises five individual wings linked together by an internal street which joins all the clinical areas into a single entity. The former Victorian premises of St Cath's were demolished to make way for the new development.

Under the terms of the agreement with NHS Wirral, Prime contributed £13.2m towards capital costs and will receive £1m a year rent on the sections of the site occupied by Wirral NHS as part of a full repairing and insuring lease.

The site includes a four-storey 111,000 sq ft main building that will provide an extensive range of services for 750,000 patients a year.

The primary care trust worked with Integrated Health Projects to carry out the scheme under NHS ProCure 21+ arrangements.

As part of the redevelopment, more than 500 non-clinical staff moved out to other buildings in central Birkenhead.

Although the workhouse dating back to 1861 was demolished some features were retained such as the gatehouse, an archway and the original St Catherine's Church.

St Catherine's was in the headlines for the wrong reasons recently when the Metropolitan Police disclosed allegations of sex abuse by Jimmy Savile have been made.

The scheme has used a lease structure more common in commercial property and may herald the way forward as the government seeks to move away from private finance initiative.

Leighton Chumbley, group chief operating officer of Prime, said: "The adoption of a new model of funding illustrates the increasingly dynamic nature of the healthcare property sector and the continued investor appetite for secure government-backed leases.

"A freedom from established ways of thinking and a new model of ownership meant we were able to get the project on site in December 2009 at what was widely considered a tough time for funding new developments."

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