Fort George could land new health ‘hub’

The Fort George site on Derry's riverfront was vacated by the British military in 2001.
The Fort George site on Derry's riverfront was vacated by the British military in 2001.

The Fort George site on Derry’s riverfront could be the location for a new state-of-the-art health ‘hub’ where scores of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals will deliver a wide range of specialist services all under the one roof.

It’s understood the new facilities will allow more people to be diagnosed and treated in the community, closer to home.

FORT GEORGE... The former military site stretches to more than 15 acres.

FORT GEORGE... The former military site stretches to more than 15 acres.

In effect, it will be a one-stop centre for assessment, treatment and provision of healthcare to the local population.

The development dovetails with plans to transform how local care is delivered across Northern Ireland with people expected to attend their local health centre more as opposed to the local hospital.

The ‘Transforming Your Care’ reform programme aims to focus care in community settings and aims to slash hospital waiting lists by providing services such as diagnostic testing, x-rays, physiotherapy, children’s services and GPs all under the one roof.

The Western Health Trust, while not commenting on the specific Fort George location, has confirmed that it is currently trying to identify suitable sites for “a major Primary Healthcare Hub” on the city’s west bank.

This hub, said the Trust, will bring together GP and associated healthcare services in an “integrated model.”

A spokesperson added: “This work is ongoing and will support the development of the Western Trust’s business case which will be subject to Departmental and Department of Finance approval.”

As envisioned in ‘Transforming Your Care,’ health hubs will offer a number of services locally that currently require a hospital visit.

The hubs, according to the plan, will essentially encompass those services which do not require a hospital bed but which are too complex or specialised to be provided in a local GP surgery.

In Britain, many GP surgeries increasingly work together in primary care networks or hubs.

This is because combined patient populations allow practices to share community nursing, mental health, and clinical pharmacy teams, expand diagnostic facilities, and pool responsibility for urgent care and extended access. They also involve working more closely with community pharmacists, to make fuller use of the contribution they make.

The 15 acres Fort George site - which has already received outline planning permission - was vacated by the British Ministry of Defence in 2001 and acquired four years later by the Department for Social Development. It has since transferred to the Department for Communities (DfC) which last year issued an appeal for expressions of interest for the riverfront site.

Yesterday, a DfC spokesperson said: “A meeting of the Fort George Programme Board is scheduled for February 20 following which the Department will issue an update on how it intends to proceed.”