Proposals to restore and extend Blackburn’s historic Griffin Lodge as a health and wellbeing centre for local people have been given the formal go-ahead.
The idea of carefully restoring and expanding the Grade II listed building, which was once the home of the Mayor of Blackburn, was first proposed by Witton, Limefield and Redlam medical centres in 2017 and today received planning permission.
Currently, the practices are all based in former houses which weren’t built for clinical care or services. As a result, the practices desperately need new premises which are fit for the purpose of clinical care. In their current buildings, the environment for patients is poor: access for people with disabilities is difficult and the layout is seen as unhelpful and confusing. The buildings are limiting the health and care services the practices can deliver, and the staff they can recruit.
After positive feedback on the proposals from patients and local people in events with the practices several years ago, the practices have teamed up with North West-based primary care premises specialist, Assura, to work to turn their plans and people’s suggestions into reality.
Dr Hereward Brown from Limefield Medical Centre said: “This is an exciting step forward on our journey to create an even better experience for our patients and to improve the working life of our teams, as well as a fantastic thing for Blackburn to see this historic site transformed and put to work once again for our community.”
The new hub at Griffin Lodge will create an outstanding environment for patients. It would allow the practices to offer extended services away from hospital, bringing those services closer to people’s homes and workplaces. These would include minor operations, a much wider range of clinics and support including social prescribing, physiotherapy, mental health services for young people, COPD and pulmonary rehabilitation and many other wellbeing services on site. It will create space for training of student nurses, doctors and nurse practitioners and will be a local health education space. Given Griffin Lodge’s location, there will also be fantastic links with the surrounding outside space.
Dr Mark Dziobon, Medical Director for Blackburn with Darwen and NHS East Lancashire CCGs said: “This is a major proposal for the area and is a really exciting development. For patients this is going to be a game changer. Over 90% of the contact people have with the NHS locally is via their GP and GP practice. So it is important that people have not only modern and accessible GP services but also services operating out of buildings that are ahead of the times and our expectations. We know that patients want health and care services to be joined up, closer to home and the best that they can be
and this development is a major step in that direction”.
One of the most exciting things about the project is the opportunity to reuse an historic building for vital community services rather than constructing something brand new – an important part of tackling climate change. Historic England research has found that carefully recycling historic buildings can produce far less carbon than the process of demolishing and constructing new sites.
Councillor Phil Riley, Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council – which provided the site for the scheme – and Executive Member for Growth and Development, said: “Ensuring our residents have access to the very best services is a top priority for the Council and we’ve worked hard on this scheme with Assura.
“It’s fantastic that these plans for the medical centre in our borough have been passed – bringing a Grade-II listed building, which had fallen into disrepair, back in to use too. We’re looking forward to the work starting and seeing Griffin Lodge transformed into a state-of-the-art facility.”
Patients do not need to take any action and would begin using the new site when it opens as a health hub – subject to planning and construction timescales – in 2024.
Assura Senior Development Manager, David Sadler, said: “There’s still a long, long way to go as this will be such a complex and challenging construction project but receiving planning permission is the next step along the road. We’ve already transformed a number of older buildings into incredible modern medical centres, from a Victorian school to a former fire station, but this is on a very different scale. The opportunity to help these three practices create their new home at the same time as protecting a local landmark for the future makes this doubly special.”