The top floor of Altrincham’s £24m Health and Wellbeing Centre looks set to be partially converted into office space – at a cost of £1.5m.
That’s the recommendation set to be approved at a meeting of the governing body of Trafford’s Clinical Commissioning Group next week.
The 88,000 sq ft centre was originally designed as a major new hub for health and social care services in South Trafford, but has lain dormant since completion last September after a funding gap was discovered that meant the planned tenants could no longer move in on a cost neutral basis.
Since then, a Programme Board has been set up by the CCG to work out what to do with a development that has rapidly become something of a white elephant in the town centre.
And now a report, prepared by the CCG’s Accountable Officer Martyn Pritchard, has outlined the stark choice faced by health bosses as they look to lessen the financial burden of a centre they are committed to to the tune of £2.35m per annum for the next 30 years.
The report has also lifted the lid on the incompetency that allowed the situation to arise at all.
The report reveals how:
- The centre was originally envisaged as a base for services including a heart failure clinic, health visiting and school nursing, child mental health, adult speech and language therapy, children’s eye health, and a nutrition and dietetic service, with a wide range of further services hoped for the future
- The original business case stated that the CCG had a “comprehensive commissioning plan” to make the centre a “pioneer/exemplar health organisation” in delivering integrated primary care services, but that it had since become apparent that the plan simply did not exist
- As such, it was discovered last year that the organisations originally intended to move into the facility – including St John’s Surgery and Barrington Road Surgery in Altrincham – no longer wanted to and no tenancy agreements had been signed
- The upshot was that it was no longer “financially viable” to proceed with the centre as 100% health services
The route now being recommended to the CCG is to convert the third floor of the building to commercial office space – at an estimated cost of £1.49m – with the report stating that early indications had suggested there was a “buoyant” grade A office space of this type in the town centre. Altrincham Library has already relocated to part of the building as originally planned.
However, no funding source for these extra costs has yet been identified.
This preferred option – the third of five set out in the report – would also see three GP practices occupying the first floor, among them the St John’s and Barrington Road surgeries.
The Programme Board is continuing to explore all other health related options within Trafford and Greater Manchester to secure health tenants on the ground and second floors.
Any NHS providers would receive a 50% subsidy on rent and service charges should they move in.
The report even considers mothballing the facility completely, but concludes that this was the “least preferable option”.
“Notwithstanding the financial constraints this would bring, it would also attract a significant amount of continued negative publicity,” the report says.
The CCG will discuss the proposals and approve the preferred option at a meeting on March 5th.