Wigan's new community health unit takes shape

Innovative new Community Assessment Unit will ease pressure on A&E and give older people more independence

The construction site of the new Community Assessment Unit at Royal Albert Edward Infirmary in Wigan. The building is due to be completed in the autumn

A new £7.6m Community Assessment Unit, a state-of-the-art healthcare facility which will serve the borough of Wigan, will be handed over in the coming months, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) has been working at pace since lockdown on the innovative project, which will deliver a new type of care at Royal Albert Edward Infirmary in Wigan.

The aim is to help reduce emergency admissions into the hospital and ensure older patients can return home quicker with the appropriate care plan in place.

This major investment will see the introduction of 21 new community beds, including nine single rooms, with a further six assessment chairs.

The unit will be managed by the trust’s Community Services Division, supported by health partners across the borough.

It comes as the community team has developed new ways of working which focus on encouraging patient enablement and independence.

The Community Assessment Unit team will be made up of a number of different roles, some of which are completely new.

Silas Nicholls, chief executive of WWL, said: “Before this incredibly-tough period of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic our staff were already working extremely hard on our sites and in the community.

“Each winter, like across the rest of the country, we deal with rising demands for our services.

“And our new Community Assessment Unit will be one vital part of a multi-faceted and innovative approach in providing the right care, in the right place, at the right time.

Pictured on the construction site are (L-R) Maria Berger, head of project delivery at Darwin Group; Chris Knights, deputy director of strategy and planning at WWL; Silas Nicholls, chief executive of WWL; and Charles Pierce, managing director of Darwin Group

“It will ease some of the winter pressures we face, meet the needs of our aging population, and allow our patients to recover much faster in the comfort of their own homes or in a residential environment.”

Contractor and architects, The Darwin Group, is constructing the new unit, which is located on the site of an old pathology laboratory at Royal Albert Edward Infirmary, which was demolished in 2018.

The unit, which will have links physically and operationally to the hospital, is expected to be completed in the autumn.

Earlier this year, The Darwin Group also responded to the trust’s urgent call to build a new COVID-19 dedicated ward and completed handover of the Bryn Ward development at Wigan Infirmary after around six weeks.

At the same time, the Shrewsbury-based firm has been working on the Community Assessment Unit.

Charles Pierce, managing director of Darwin Group, said: “We are extremely proud to have been selected to deliver this essential facility for the local community and, despite the challenges posed by the more-onerous working practises necessary during these difficult times, work is progressing very well.

“WWL has a very clear understanding of its needs and this always helps a project to run smoothly.”

Nicholls added: “The COVID-19 pandemic has not halted our determination in investing into our care settings, our people, and our communities.

“The work of our community staff, the Darwin Group and our support staff in getting this development to this stage and on course for opening this autumn is testament to their ongoing and incredible caring spirit.”

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