Corby's new diagnostic centre given nod by planners despite reservations over trees - and now it's your turn to have a say

Local councillors had raised concerns about the planning process
The new diagnostic centre will be in Willlow Brook Road. Image: NHSThe new diagnostic centre will be in Willlow Brook Road. Image: NHS
The new diagnostic centre will be in Willlow Brook Road. Image: NHS

A major extension to Corby’s diagnostic centre has been green-lighted by the council.

The new hub, which will house CT scanners, ultrasound facilities and an MRI machine, will mean local people don’t have to travel to Kettering for diagnosis of series illnesses.

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Town councillors had raised concerns about the haste of the scheme through the planning process, which meant it came to committee only 36 days after blueprints were submitted to North Northamptonshire Council.

The site is at the side of the existing Willowbrook Health Centre and will be accessed via Willow Brook Road. It will open 12-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week from next summer. It is on the edge of the town’s ancient woodland - although the site was cleared in the 1950s and is now a field.

It is part of a wider government plan to help tackle diagnostic waiting time backlogs and speed-up vital care for local patients. It will offer 50,000 appointments every year and will be a one-stop-shop to allow people to have tests and get their diagnosis on the same day.

At a Corby Cube meeting on Wednesday evening (October 4), planner Bob Young told the planning committee: “The reason for bringing you in front of this today is because this scheme is dependant on NHS funding. There’s a very short deadline so we’ve had to bring it forward from the November meeting to this one."

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He said he had asked the tree officers to visit the site to take a look and said that officers were ‘quite satisfied’ that new planting would have a positive effect on the site and that ‘trees were not a reason for concern’.

He said the development would return a net gain in terms of biodiversity.

Also speaking at the meeting, University Hospitals of Northamptonshire director of strategy Polly Grimmett said: “The principal aim of community diagnostic centres is to increase capacity and reduce waiting time for patients to be able to get early access to tests in particular around early diagnosis of cancer.

"The earlier you can get diagnosed with cancer the much better your health outcomes are.”

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She said Corby was chosen because of its growing population and its lack of existing healthcare facilities.

Cllr Alison Dalziel (Lab, Corby West) told the meeting she had ‘serious concerns’ about the lack of consultation on the proposal and said that could be demonstrated by the fact there were no members of the public at the meeting.

“If people knew this was happening in Corby they would be here and would be very interested in this,” she said.

"This is a commendable project but the consultation seems to have been rushed through and we’re being asked to make a decision on something that’s very scant.”

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She said Corby Town Council members had been given only one working day to comment and criticised the lack of a detailed tree report.

"I’m being asked to approve something because the NHS have a funding deadline.”

Cllr Lyn Buckingham (Lab, Lloyds) said that she wanted guarantees that the Willow Brook would be protected during the building process and afterward.

Local people are now being invited to a public engagement session designed to provide an update and to give them an opportunity to give their thoughts as to how the scheme can be further developed to strengthen it as a community asset.

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The event will be being held on Wednesday, October 18, with both virtual and face-to-face meetings available.

The centre will be run by the University Hospitals of Northamptonshire NHS Group - which consists of Kettering and Northampton general hospitals - and will be overseen by NHS Northamptonshire Integrated Care Board - the body that oversees local health and social care.

After Wednesday’s meeting, Ms Grimmett said: “We want to gather the thoughts of our local community on the new community diagnostic centre plan.

“At the meetings we will explain our plans and answers questions on whatever issues local people may raise. That could include how people will access the centre for their tests, how big the centre will be, what it will look like, what facilities it will have, and how we are working with environmental specialists to ensure it has a minimum impact on local birds, mammals and trees.”

The Corby Community Diagnostic Centre will include:

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- Diagnostic imaging for MRI, CT, ultrasound and echocardiogram

- Consult examination and assessment rooms

- A welcoming reception and waiting area

- Sufficient parking for patients and staff

The aim for the Corby development is to get it up and running by 2024 which means the hospital will need to work at pace to plan, design, develop and build the centre.

Chief Medical Officer for the Northamptonshire Integrated Care Board (NICB), Matt Metcalf, said: “We understand how important people’s health is to them and how anxious it can make people feel if they have to wait a long time for tests.

“The additional appointments they provide - in both Corby and Northampton - will help support GPs and hospital staff in diagnosing many potentially life-threatening, or debilitating conditions, at an earlier point. In turn this will help us treat conditions and reduce the risk of emergency attendances in hospital.

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“It will also help us to reduce the stress and uncertainty patients face while waiting for the more specialised diagnostic tests like CT and MRI to determine what is wrong with them.”

The Face to Face meeting is being held from 1.15pm-2.15pm on October 18 at the Corby Cube. Places are limited and can be booked here. The virtual meeting is at 2.45pm-3.45pm and is accessible via the website.

If you are unable to attend the face-to-face meeting or virtual event, but you have any further questions you can email [email protected] or telephone 01536 493968 / 07813 363677.

You can also use these contact details to book onto the event if you cannot use the form and link above.