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Council looks to secure future of new medical centre for Sudbury

Posted by on 9 January 2023 | Comments

Babergh District Council’s cabinet members are to consider whether the council should step in to secure the future of a new state-of-the-art medical centre in Sudbury.

The Council approved the sale of the former lorry park in Station Road back in 2020 as a site for new purpose-built facilities to meet the primary health and care needs of the town’s growing population, with plans for Hardwicke House and Meadow Lane doctors’ surgeries to relocate to the new centre.

As well as resolving the pressing need to replace the practice’s ageing facilities in Sudbury and Great Cornard, the plans would also create 20 new jobs, providing additional capacity for healthcare in the community. It was also hoped that the modern training facilities would attract urgently required GPs, nurses, and clinicians to the region.

Detailed planning consent for the new development was granted last April and funding approved by Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care Board (SNEE ICB).  Pending final sign off by NHS England, work was due to start on site this spring, with the new centre becoming operational next year. 

However, a final condition of the sale is Hardwicke House Group Practice doctors agreeing to lease the building for a period of 25 years – a commitment that the practice partners feel that they are unable to make without greater flexibility concerning the practice lease arrangements, given the uncertainties within the NHS landscape.

On Monday, Babergh District Council’s cabinet members will discuss how to keep plans on track as part of their wider vision for Sudbury. One possible option is for the council to meet a request by the NHS to take on the headlease of the health centre and then sub-let it to the Hardwicke House practice, until SNEE ICB is in a position to take on the headlease themselves.

Babergh District Council cabinet member for assets and investments, Cllr David Busby said:

It is obvious that this development would have a significant positive impact for residents. We must now carefully weigh any risk this would present to us as a council against the benefits for the town, and act in the best interests of all.”

A report before cabinet members on Monday details the risk for the council and shows how there would be little to no impact on the council in terms of the day-to-day running of the practice, with all costs relating to maintaining and running the property, outgoings, and administrative costs being covered by the NHS and landlord. 

According to the report, the main risk would be if the practice were to move out after 15 or 20 years and the building then remain vacant, however cabinet will also hear reassurances from NHS partners and developers over the unlikelihood of this ever occurring – given the ongoing need for healthcare provision in the town and the ideal location of the centre, close to existing transport links.

SNEE ICB and Hardwicke House Group Practice said in a joint statement:

We are grateful that Babergh District Council is considering working with us to deliver a positive result for our patients and local residents.  These proposals are the culmination of several years’ work by Hardwicke House Group Practice in trying to identify and secure alternative suitable accommodation within Sudbury.”

Babergh District Council cabinet will meet at 2pm on Monday. Council papers and a link to view a livestream of the meeting are available on the council website.