New testing and scanning centres planned to reduce waiting times in Sandwell

New centres for health checks, tests and scans could be set up in Sandwell in a bid to reduce waiting times at GP surgeries and hospitals.

Lyng Health Centre in West Bromwich is one of the centres being considered. Photo: Google
Lyng Health Centre in West Bromwich is one of the centres being considered. Photo: Google

Community diagnostic hubs are being planned in the borough in an attempt to relieve the current pressure on the accident and emergency department at Sandwell General Hospital.

The new measures are to be introduced by the Black Country & West Birmingham Integrated Care System, which said the hubs should help manage backlogs created by the pandemic

Empty shops could be used to house the sites, while other locations being considered include Rowley Regis Medical Centre, Neptune Health Park in Tipton and the Lyng Centre in West Bromwich.

Hubs will also be based at the urgent treatment centre at Sandwell General and Birmingham Treatment Centre at City Hospital.

Sandwell Council together with Black Country & West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group is putting a bid together to develop the centres, which will act as one-stop-shops for all diagnostic needs, including health checks, scans and other diagnostic tests.

They will transform how services such as MRI scans, ultrasounds, X-rays and blood tests are carried out for local people, a meeting of Sandwell Council's Adult, Social Care, and Health Scrutiny Board was told.

Although details of how the hubs will work have not been revealed, health bosses indicated earlier this year they could operate on a walk-in basis.

Up to £2.6 billion of funding will be available to secure more locations for three years across the Black Country and West Birmingham.

Elaine Gilliland, community diagnostic hub manager for the Black Country and West Birmingham Integrated Care System, said: "The centres will create enhanced patient experience that will offer multiple tests at the same time, making it easier for people to get tested and get faster results. This means lives can be saved and interventions can happen sooner.

"During the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, requests for diagnostics decreased. However, requests for diagnostics are now increasing again. Hospital sites have very limited spare capacity – including parking – and are difficult to keep Covid-19 minimal.”

But councillors have argued that more accessible locations could be better suited for the hubs.

Councillor Luke Giles said: "I appreciate the community diagnostic hubs coming into Sandwell.

"They are much needed, but I feel that the locations the Integrated Care Team have allocated are not suitable.

"There are many empty shops on our high street in Wednesbury and West Bromwich which would be much more suited, especially for our elderly residents who would find getting to these two towns much easier than Tipton."

Councillor Giles was also critical of the funding method.

He said: "Three years for a CDH, for it to be potentially ripped up after three years, is worrying.

"We need to make sure these health care models are sustainable for our communities."

Councillor Fenton suggested that more needed to be done to make sure staff who will be trained in carrying out tests will be retained in the Black Country.

She said: "I understand that staff will be trained to perform these tests, and not necessarily from a university background, which is great for accessibility in our health care system.

"Looking to colleges is a great idea to train staff, but how can we make sure the staff, once they have the skills necessary, will not go and join a different health care centre and leave the Black Country altogether?"

The recommendations were approved, subject to more consultations on the location of the new medical hubs.

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