New medical centre sets the trend

A STATE-of-the-art health and social care centre in Stowmarket could be the start of a phenomenon set to blaze a trail through the medical world.The £4.

A STATE-of-the-art health and social care centre in Stowmarket could be the start of a phenomenon set to blaze a trail through the medical world.

The £4.5million Violet Hill House is being dubbed as a medical super-centre and is the first in East Anglia and one of only a handful in the whole country.

Similar ideas are already being considered elsewhere in Suffolk, including Ipswich, but many are watching the progress of the Stowmarket centre with interest.

It combines a chemist, a doctor's surgery, a mental health team and a family centre. In addition, there is a conference room, gym and a number of consulting rooms.

These are run by StowHealth, Suffolk County Council, Central Suffolk Primary Care Trust, the Local Health Partnership Trust and Boots the chemists.

Penny Flack, business manager of StowHealth, said: "The thing that stands us aside is the fact we have so many community services under one roof.

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"It's health and social care together and that's what makes Violet Hill so unique. It's all about making for a more seamless service for the patient."

As well as catering for the needs of families in Stowmarket and the surrounding area, it also hopes to take some weight off the shoulders of the NHS.

"It's a 24 seven building and it's certainly good value for the NHS, she said.

"We will hope to relieve some of the pressure on the NHS by doing more things here, by using the minor surgery theatre for example. Consultants also visit so patients don't have to go to Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds to see one."

The idea was first hatched around nine years ago but detailed plans have been worked on for the past four years.

Mrs Flack and Dr Mark Shenton, a partner in the practise, have been at the forefront of moves to get the centre up and running.

Dr Shenton said: "Now the building is finished, we're very proud of the results and are sure that people will appreciate having so many facilities and services in the same place.

"As the first and largest such facility in Suffolk, it's a real asset to Stowmarket."

Mrs Flack added: "We've succeeded in the first stage of it, which was getting it built and getting in, but in many ways the hard work starts now. We're now moving to the second stage of integrating the services.

"There were dark days when we never thought it would get off the ground. There were all these organisations and all the politics that go with it but we've done it now and it's wonderful."

The centre, which has been open for four months, will be officially unveiled on Thursday.

It marks the end of 18 months of turmoil for the staff, who had been housed in temporary accommodation since the old building was knocked down in January 2002.

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