YEOVIL Hospital will soon be able to handle thousands of more outpatients after construction began on its new diagnostic centre.

The Somerset NHS Foundation Trust and Prime, its “strategic estates partner”, secured planning permission just before Christmas to erect the new three-storey building on part of its existing pick-up and drop-off area on Higher Kingston in Yeovil.

The new diagnostic centre will be able to handle more than 70,000 diagnostic tests and outpatient appointments every year, easing pressure on existing facilities within the hospital.

A ground breaking ceremony was held this week as construction formally got under way, with the new facility expected to open its doors before the end of the year.

The new diagnostic centre will be open seven days a week and will be run along the same lines as its Taunton counterpart, which opened on Blackbrook Avenue in September 2021.

The Yeovil centre will be geared towards patients in south Somerset and north-west Dorset, providing radiology, endoscopy, cardiology and audiology diagnostic tests and outpatient appointments.

Radiology and endoscopy services will be provide by InHealth (which is based in Middlewich in Cheshire) in partnership with Prime, a specialist health and care property developer based in Worcester.

All remaining diagnostic and outpatient services will be provided in-house by the NHS trust – though all services will remain free at the point of delivery.

Jonathan Ockrim, a consultant colorectal surgeon and the trust’s clinical lead
for the project, said: “This new community diagnostic centre (CDC) is the latest in a number of high-profile building projects that are happening at Yeovil Hospital at the moment, which is fantastic to see.

“In fact, I’ve worked at the hospital for 21 years and have never seen such an
incredible investment in new buildings and facilities at the hospital, which is giving us much more capacity to care for and treat our patients.

“Within the new CDC we’ll have a new audiology unit, a cardio diagnostic centre, as well as an imaging suite so we can get quicker and better quality CT and MRI scans for our patients.

“In addition, the centre will house a brand new state-of-the-art endoscopy unit, which will help to relieve the pressure on our busy endoscopy unit in the main part of the hospital, so it can prioritise emergencies. We also expect waiting times for an endoscopy to be greatly reduced.

“The centre will also have a number of additional clinic rooms, as well as a conference room at the top for various clinical meetings to take place.

“Overall it promises to help us to reduce delays in diagnostics and endoscopy, and result in a much improved service.”

In addition to the diagnostic centres in Taunton and Yeovil, the trust has recently delivered two ophthalmology diagnostic centres – one within the Quedam Shopping Centre in Yeovil town centre, and one within the Blackbrook Business Park in Taunton.

David Shannon, the trust’s director of strategy and digital development, said: “All of these facilities expand our diagnostic capacity and mean that patients do not need to go into our busy hospitals for some diagnostic tests, and capacity within our busy hospitals is freed up for patients who require more complex care and those who are in hospital.”

InHealth CEO Geoff Searle added: “We’re delighted to mark the official start of build works for the new Yeovil Diagnostic Centre.

“When ready, this will be one of five brand new CDCs in the south west, as part of our partnership with NHS England, and we’re proud to be working in partnership with Somerset NHS Foundation Trust to provide key clinical services to the local population through this new centre.

“Across our nationwide network of CDCs, we’ve seen the real difference and positive impact that centres like these can bring for patients, focussed on improving health outcomes, so it’s fantastic to be doing that here in Yeovil.

“Our mission  is to make healthcare better and improve access to services like the ones that are going to be delivered here, as well as reduce the time people are waiting for a diagnosis and care, so it really will be a fantastic healthcare facility and something that InHealth is already very proud of and very much looking forward to opening.”

During the construction, numerous sections of footpath along Higher Kingston and the A30 Reckleford will be cordoned off, meaning pedestrians will have to use other routes into the hospital grounds.

Leighton Chumbley, chief executive at Prime, said: “We have delivered a number of transformational projects since 2014, including the multi-storey car park opposite the main entrance and key worker housing at Goldcroft.

“Patient and staff experience is at the forefront of the work we do, and the Yeovil Diagnostic Centre will not only enhance health outcomes in the region, but also enrich the local area by being a model of sustainable construction, with a net zero embodied carbon impact and biodiversity net gain.”

The new centre will be designed and built by healthcare construction specialists Darwin Group, which is based in Telford.

Healthcare director Alan Davidson  said: “We’re proud to be working for Prime as partners to design and construct the diagnostic centre at Yeovil Hospital.

“It’s always great to see work getting under way and to hear first-hand about the impact that the facility will have on the local community.”