IT’S the multi-million pound state-of-the-art building that promised to be a first class health hub fit for the 21st century.
Hailed as a one-stop shop for all health needs for thousands of patients and a much-anticipated walk-in centre, there was great excitement and optimism when Adelaide Health Centre first opened its doors.
But almost four years on those hopes have been shattered.
What should have been a centre of excellence for healthcare has been slammed as a “ghost town” by critics who have branded it a “white elephant” which is costing taxpayers £1.5m per year to run.
But health bosses, who have admitted that Adelaide Health Centre is not yet working to its full capacity, defended the situation, explaining that they have only been in charge of the building since April.
NHS Property Services have now vowed to make Adelaide their priority – to ensure it fulfils its potential.
When it opened in January 2010, the centre, built under the Government’s PFI initiative on the Western Community Hospital site, promised to be a bustling health hub, serving some 20,000 registered patients together with a state-of-the-art walk-in centre.
But currently only 3,500 patients are registered at the GP surgery, after plans for local practices to move in failed, the third floor is home to Solent NHS Trust’s admin staff and there is no full walk-in centre.
There is no question about the quality of the building or the services currently running there, such as podiatry and physiotherapy – critics simply want the centre fully utilised and to become the centre of excellence they were promised.
Kevin Liles, who was part of the team who put together the plan for Adelaide before he retired, said: “This is a disgraceful waste of precious public funding.
“It is Southampton’s most expensive, biggest community asset yet it has become a ghost town compared to the hopes we had for it back at the start.
“It is a wasted opportunity because it just seems that the public is paying a lot of money for an admin block.
“The pharmacy, which has the best opening hours in the city, came in and they were promised it would be a buzzing centre, but that just hasn’t happened.
“I think questions need to be asked because it is tiny compared to what it could have been.
“It could be a real centre of excellence for healthcare and health bosses need a kick to get it where it should be.
“Patients using the other surgeries are putting up with terrible accommodation yet there is this purpose-built centre, literally round the corner, doing nothing.
“Deals with GP practices to make the premises affordable must be struck and a walk in centre and minor injury service introduced to stop unnecessary visits Southampton General Hospital’s A&E.”
His views were echoed by Southampton Test MP Alan Whitehead, who vowed to raise the issue with health bosses to ensure the ambitions of the centre are met.
He said: “It has fallen short of what was promised when it was first opened”
It will also be a priority for Southampton city councillor Dave Shields, Cabinet member for health, who believes the difficulty may lie in the fact that it is not run locally.
He said: “I think it is a really nice building but what we have to make sure is that we are making the most of it.
“If it is not being used to its full capacity then this is an opportunity for us to change that by working closer with GPs and health services.”
Councillor Don Thomas, whose constituents use the centre, added: “The hopes and aspirations for such a hub right in the heart of the community all looked ideal at the time and for this not to come off is a real disappointment. But this doesn’t have to be a white elephant.
“Councillors and health bosses have a role to play to ensure we get the thriving health hub we were promised because this is a lot of NHS money being paid out for what has become an admin block.”
Initially there had been plans for three of the city’s GP surgeries to move into the building but this has not happened.
When asked why they decided not to make the move into the state-of-the-art facility, cost was a major factor.
Victor Street Surgery said that it declined the offer to move to Adelaide for both financial and patient care reasons, concluding that the centre “didn’t meet our needs”.
Practice manager at Brook House Surgery, Adrienne Ely, added: “We owned our building and we just felt from our point of view that the benefits were not there.”
Cathy Rooke, practice manager at Cheviot Road Surgery, said the move had no financial benefits.
This failure to entice GP practices to the complex in Millbrook has caused much frustration for Maqsood Yasin, one of the pharmacists who runs Adelaide Pharmacy at the health centre, who moved in after being told it would be a thriving hub of healthcare.
He said: “I feel that this centre has massive potential which has not yet been utilised.
“With extra services in the building it could reach that full potential, meeting the needs of the immediate local community and the general population.
“It would be nice to see this building become the one-stop shop that had been envisaged back when it was first opened, with other doctor surgeries and a walk-in element.”
The majority of the services at the health centre, including the walk-in nurse-led service, are run by Solent NHS Trust, which leases the space for £1.5m per annum. The trust insists the fees are proportionate but those criticising the lack of services at the centre argue that it would be paying for itself if it was used to its full potential.
Michael Parr, director of finance and performance at the trust, said: “Patients will often be seen straight away or only have a short wait, which goes some way explaining why waiting areas may not look busy all the time.
“We are currently in conversation with our landlord to bring in our range of children’s services into the building – which will no doubt see a vast increase in floor space utilisation.”
A spokesman for NHS Property Services, which has overall responsibility for the centre, said: “Adelaide health centre transferred to NHS Property Services in April 2013, when we came into existence, and our priority is to make sure that it is utilised to its full potential for the benefit of the local community and we are currently working closely with local commissioners to achieve this.”