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Former council offices to be temporarily used as NHS clinics

Dorset health organisations are working with Dorset Council to create a space for rapid access clinics in South Walks House, Dorchester, as part of a county-wide effort to tackle NHS waiting lists.

The ‘Outpatient Assessment Centre @ Dorset Health Village’ will operate out of the ground floor of the former council offices for six months, opening in the next few weeks.

The initiative is being led by Dorset County Hospital in partnership with NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group, Dorset HealthCare, LiveWell Dorset and Active Dorset, and will bring together a range of outpatient services under one roof in the town centre location.

Patients will be invited to attend orthopaedic, musculoskeletal and physiotherapy appointments at the centre, and will be able to access a wealth of health and wellbeing information and advice while they are there.

There will also be dedicated space for clinicians to conduct virtual appointments with patients through video and telephone calls.

The Dorchester centre is part of Dorset’s wider ‘Think Big’ initiative to help reduce waiting lists and bring diagnostic services closer to the community. This is one of the first schemes of its kind to get up and running in the country.

A similar scheme in the east of Dorset to create an outpatient assessment clinic in Beales in Poole’s Dolphin Centre will be opening soon.

Councillor Tony Ferrari, Portfolio Holder for Economic Growth, Assets and Property at Dorset Council, said: “We are proud to be working in partnership with the NHS by providing the council-owned South Walks House building to deliver health services for the next few months.

“It’s so important that we work together across the public sector to provide good services and good value to residents. This arrangement with Dorset County Hospital will help to reduce patient waiting lists, and makes good use of a vacant building while we finalise our longer term plans.”

Dorset County Hospital’s Deputy Chief Executive Nick Johnson said: “We are delighted to be working with Dorset Council and our health partners to open this new facility and make such good use of an existing public building.

“This will allow us to see and assess many more patients than is possible in our existing clinics and make significant progress in tackling waiting list backlogs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If this initiative proves successful we would be very keen to continue to run clinics in a town centre location for the convenience of our patients, as well as for the benefit of local businesses by increasing footfall in the high street.”

The centre will be fully staffed by local healthcare teams, but they would very much like to recruit a team of volunteers to support and guide patients visiting the centre as it’s a new, unfamiliar facility.

Anyone who would like to volunteer is asked to contact Volunteer Centre Dorset on info@volunteeringdorset.org.uk or 01305 269214. They would particularly like to hear from anyone who has previously volunteered in a hospital or vaccination centre, or has event marshalling experience.

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