The facility, named the Integrated Diagnostic Centre, will include a PET-CT scanner which will save patients having to travel to hospitals in Newcastle or Middlesbrough if they have a suspected cancer diagnosis.
It will also include world class MRI and CT scanning equipment and clinical consultation rooms, as well as a ‘docking’ station for mobile scanners that may be needed in future to cope with demand.
Investment is via a partnership between STSFT and Alliance Medical which have provided mobile diagnostic vans to the trust for more than 10 years, alongside providing PET-CT scanning across the entire NHS.
On September 30 2021, plans for the facility from applicant Alliance Medical Leasing Ltd were registered with South Tyneside Council’s planning department.
If approved in future, the new building will be based on a part of the hospital site that previously housed disused 1930s nurses’ accommodation.
A design and access statement, submitted on behalf of the applicant, states the diagnostic centre would help to improve access to services while slashing waiting lists.
It reads: “The Integrated Diagnostic Centre will provide for the anticipated growth of the trust’s overflow requirements over the next 10 years with the provision of four MRI scanners and four CT scanners serving the South Tyneside and Sunderland community, therefore bringing a fundamental service to the doorstep of the local community [and] improving access for patients which will mean a much quicker turnaround time so patients can begin treatment sooner.
“As the NHS recovers from Covid-19 and begins to tackle the major backlog of patients now waiting for treatment, South Tyneside’s new Integrated Diagnostic Centre will play a pivotal role in reducing waiting lists.
“More patients will have access to scans and will experience their care from a new purpose-built, permanent facility rather than a mobile scanning van at various locations across the trust hospital sites.”
Alliance Medical would front the capital cost of the building and purchasing scanning equipment as part of the partnership with the NHS trust.
It is understood that the company would then provide diagnostic services at the facility for an agreed time-frame of more than 10 years, with the trust paying a fee ‘per scan.’
This arrangement is seen as cost-effective for the NHS and the building would be owned by the trust at the end of this time-frame.
According to a transport statement submitted to council planners, it is anticipated that a maximum of around 15 patients, a mix of both inpatients and outpatients, could be seen per hour at the facility.
In addition, up to 25 staff are expected to be working at any one time at the diagnostic hub, including technicians, radiologists, booking staff, managers and reception staff.
The design and access statement for the development adds: “The proposals contained within this application will provide significant improvements to a range of diagnostic services currently offered to the community with a new state-of-the-art Integrated Diagnostic Centre.
“Internally, the design prioritises patient and staff experiences, from easy access to an efficient scanning service.
“The external design has been carefully considered to reflect those ambitions, providing a modern patient-centred diagnostic facility, and one that is a focal point and visual enhancement to the South Tyneside District Hospital site.”
If planning permission is granted, health bosses hope to have the diagnostic centre up and running towards the end of 2022.
However the final say on the plans rests with South Tyneside Council’s planning authority following a period of public consultation.
Comments on the plans are open until Thursday, October 21 and can be made through the council’s online planning portal.