£2.6bh NHS Community Diagnostic Hubs planned for Sandwell to ease pressure on hospitals

Empty high street shops are being considered as potential walk-in sites with health centres in Rowley Regis, Tipton and West Bromwich also being suggested as suitable locations

<p>Lyng Health Centre in West Bromwich</p>

Lyng Health Centre in West Bromwich

Community Diagnostic Hubs may be introduced into Sandwell to help reduce waiting times in GP surgeries and hospitals.

A one-stop shop for health checks, tests and scans is one step closer to opening to relieve pressure on Sandwell General Hospital’s accident and emergency department.

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Health bosses announced they - together with Black Country & West Birmingham Clinical

Commissioning Group - will put in a bid to develop a Community Diagnostic Hubs (CDH) in Sandwell.

The new measures are to be introduced by the Black Country & West Birmingham Integrated Care System.

At an Adult, Social Care, and Health Scrutiny Board on November 22, councillors heard how CDH’s will transform how services such as MRI scans, ultrasounds, X-rays and blood tests are carried out for local people.

Where will Community Diagnostic Hubs’s (CDH) be based?

The roll out of CDH are being used to help manage backlogs created by the pandemic and are to be located in sites such as empty high street shops, separate from urgent care facilities.

Although details of how it will work have not been revealed, health bosses earlier this year indicated it could operate on a walk-in basis.

Up to £2.6bn of funding will be available to secure more locations for three years across the Black Country and West Birmingham.

Locations being considered in Sandwell include Rowley Regis health centre, Neptune health centre and Lyng health centre.

These potential health centres will sit alongside Sandwell Treatment Centre and Birmingham Treatment Centres as hub locations.

What have health managers said about the plans?

Elaine Gilliland, Community Diagnostic Hub manager for the Black Country and West Birmingham Integrated Care System, said: “The centres will create  enhanced patient experience that will offer multiple tests at the same time, making it easier for people to get tested and get faster results. This means lives can be saved and interventions can happen sooner.

“During the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, requests for diagnostics decreased. However, requests for diagnostics are now increasing again. Hospital sites have very limited spare capacity – including parking – and are difficult to keep Covid-19 minimal.”

What have Sandwell councillors said about the plans?

But councillors have scrutinised the plans, arguing that more accessible locations, such as Wednesbury and West Bromwich, are more suited.

Cllr Luke Giles (Labs, Wednesbury North) said: “I appreciate the community diagnostic hubs coming into Sandwell. They are much needed, but I feel that the locations the Integrated Care Team have allocated are not suitable.

“There are many empty shops on our high street in Wednesbury and West Bromwich which would be much more suited, especially for our elderly residents who would find getting to these two towns much easier than Tipton.”

Cllr Giles was also critical of the funding method. He said: “Three years for a CDH, for it to be potentially ripped up after three years, is worrying. We need to make sure these health care models are sustainable for our communities.”

Cllr Fenton (Labs, Bristnall) suggested that more needed to be done to make sure staff who will be trained in carrying out tests, will be “retained” in the Black Country.

She said: “I understand that staff will be trained to perform these tests, and not necessarily from a university background, which is great for accessibility in our health care system.

“Looking to colleges is a great idea to train staff, but how can we make sure the staff, once they have the skills necessary, will not go and join a different health care centre and leave the Black Country altogether?”

The recommendations were approved, subject to more consultations on the location of the new medical hubs.

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