This is a copy of the press release from the organisations involved.
Weybridge Regeneration Plans Move Ahead Despite Pandemic
Plans to regenerate Weybridge are moving at a fast pace, as key authorities and organisations are now working together closely to prioritise rebuilding a well-equipped health and wellbeing facility and rehouse the town’s library and other services.
The project is being driven by North West Surrey Integrated Care Partnership (ICP) and a group of major stakeholders which includes Surrey County Council, Elmbridge Borough Council, local NHS providers, NHS Property Services, the Weybridge Society and other organisations in Weybridge. They met in early October to discuss how to build on existing ideas and plans and lay the groundwork for designing a new set of town centre buildings. The main aim of the project is integrated services and activities across the statutory, private and voluntary sectors, with a view to a broader regenerated town centre.
Re-providing health care and other services has been a pressing issue for Weybridge for some time, as its GP practices and other medical services have been operating from temporary units since 2017, following a fire that completely destroyed the town’s old hospital buildings. Meanwhile, Weybridge’s 1960s library building is also at the end of its life and needs either vast repairs or replacement. Local residents have long lobbied for an integrated solution to both problems, with a view to construction of a community centre that brings many services together.
This vision lately gained new impetus and a broader remit, as separately the ICP has been working with Well North Enterprises, a social enterprise led by Lord Andrew Mawson OBE, on a wider programme of transformation. That programme, Well North West Surrey, embraces a major emphasis on prevention, early intervention and new ways of working post-COVID. It is also working with four boroughs and SCC on joined-up regeneration plans, including moving outpatient clinics at St Peter’s Hospital closer to the communities they serve, like Weybridge.
In Weybridge, the regeneration project will adopt a ‘campus approach’ that seeks to build on and integrate services across both sides of Church Street, which runs between the old hospital site and the library. Architects will be working to make sure this part of the town centre has a unified feel, with high quality architecture, landscaping and adequate linkages to existing green spaces, transport and traffic flow. Meeting housing, climate change and environmental concerns will also shape plans.
The participation of Well North Enterprises was crucial in bringing together decision-makers for the project. Prior to the October meeting, which articulated local concerns and began to organise and plan the project, Well North held more than 60 conversations with individual residents and representatives of various authorities and charities. The town’s main residents’ association, the Weybridge Society, which since 2018 had presented its own vision for an integrated approach, is now a key participant in the project.
Tim Oliver, Leader of Surrey County Council and Councillor for Weybridge: “This is a fantastic opportunity for Weybridge, and now we have all the right partners working together alongside local residents, I’m confident we’re going to deliver something that will be of huge benefit to the community here. We will build top notch primary care facilities, that are part of a broader health and wellbeing offer. We will be providing updated library facilities to create a real community hub where people can come together and access a whole range of social, cultural, educational and economic services and opportunities.”
Ray Lee, Strategic Director, Elmbridge Borough Council: “Elmbridge Borough Council is supportive and fully involved in this project which will shape the future provision of health and wellbeing services for local residents. We applaud the innovation of bringing together in one project, County, Borough and NHS providers. We look forward to continuation of valued services for older and vulnerable residents and shared spaces for community activities currently hosted in our Centre for the Community.”
Jack Wagstaff, Director of the North West Surrey Integrated Care Partnership (ICP): “This is a pioneering approach to reimagining how we support people to live happy and healthy lives. All too often people end up with a prescription or investigation which may not tackle the root cause of their problem. This is our chance to bring creative solutions to the underlying causes of ill health – poverty, unemployment, poor housing, lack of social connections. It’s exciting to be working alongside local people to create lasting change and support a flourishing and resilient Weybridge community.”
David Arnold, Chairman of the Weybridge Society: “I am delighted that the basic idea of a community hub the Society put forward two years ago to the NHS and Surrey County Council has blossomed into a significantly improved concept. Its design will add a major contribution to the life, health, and wellbeing of Weybridge, creating a sense of community and pride in our town.”
Lord Andrew Mawson, OBE: Chairman of Well North Enterprises, chairman of Weybridge project: “My colleagues and I have been involved in bringing together integrated developments for many years, but the Weybridge scheme is a unique opportunity to explore new ways of working and the reshaping of our town centres, as the internet ever more becomes the defining principle of our age.
COVID has taught us that human health has to do with every aspect of our lives: fitness, food, lifestyle, work, relationships, etc. No one is an island, we are social beings who rely on each other for our physical and mental health. Our public services and systems need joining up and renewing.
It’s great to be back in Surrey and I’m enjoying working with many local partners and leaders from the public, business and community sector. I encourage local people and those with entrepreneurial flare to engage and bring to us your practical thoughts and business opportunities, ideas and energy.”
Among the agreed outcomes of the October stakeholder meeting:
- High quality primary care as an integrated part of broad health and wellbeing offer
- Priority to rehouse the GPs and health care facilities and related services
- Key to bring together health, care, enhanced library, services from Churchfields centre, youth centre, cinema, as well as arts/culture/heritage to create an integrated coherent whole
- Project fits with ambitious plans for the enhanced role of libraries of the future – taking on social, economic, cultural and educational aspects – ‘centres of community’
- Two phase approach can be adopted so new health facilities can come first
- Create integrated, flexible space, open to and involving all sectors of the community: statutory, community and private
- Need to reach out to entrepreneurs and local organisations and find the key people who will use these services and contribute life and longevity to the buildings
- Project is as much about change of culture as construction of new buildings – breaking down silo-type thinking so organisations and authorities and groups really work together as a local team
- Business model must underpin project – not only provide public services but attract entrepreneurs, making spaces people want to go to/use, ensuring economic viability
- High quality design, architecture/landscaping, maybe new town square/plaza
- Project must be guided by environmental/health concerns, climate change and pandemic proofing
Next key step: finalising an outline business case for the health care elements of the project which will next be submitted to NHS England for approval.
Health Care: What Do We Know So Far?
The new health care component will offer a much wider range of services than was previously available, and the project has now determined what some of those will be. The list below is a minimum plan to offer:
- GP services with increased support via online, telephone and video appointments and same day and face-to-face access for those who need it
- Mental health services
- Health hub for delivering community and outpatient services – e.g. counselling, podiatry, physiotherapy
- Diagnostics including X-ray, ultrasound and phlebotomy
- Women’s and children’s hub
- Urgent care service (see below)
- Wider wellbeing services to help people stay healthy and well
The Future of Urgent Care and Walk-in Centres
Key to determining future services in Weybridge is the NHS review of urgent care and walk-in facilities across North West Surrey. This is driven by new national standards for walk-in care, which means it is not possible to replace the former walk-in centre in Weybridge with like-for-like services.
Between January and March 2020, the NHS ran a series of events to test a shortlist of options for how to provide walk-in type services in the future with local people. This included whether or not to house an Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC) in Weybridge. UTCs are GP-led (rather than nurse-led), open for a minimum of 12 hours a day – from 8 am-8 pm, able to provide diagnostics (such as X-ray, blood and urine tests) and able to provide some bookable appointments from NHS 111.
The NHS is able to progress plans for the wider range of services to be available from the new Weybridge facility whether a UTC is part of the final site plan or not. Flexibility is key for the new site in any case, and a shortlist of options is now being reviewed in light of changes in how patients access care and revised guidance from NHS England. Should this result in a proposal to materially change the provisioned walk-in centre services across North West Surrey, a full public consultation would follow.
The COVID-19 pandemic has of course accelerated a pre-existing shift towards use of digital services. In the long term the NHS anticipates this will continue, as it also plans safe services that limit the volume of people gathering in surgeries, clinics and hospitals.