Dorset health organisations are delighted to have opened the new temporary Outpatient Assessment Centre at South Walks House in Dorchester to patients today (9 November 2021).

The centre for rapid access clinics is operating out of the ground floor of the former Dorset Council offices for six months as part of a county-wide effort to tackle NHS waiting lists.

The initiative is being led by Dorset County Hospital in partnership with NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group, Dorset HealthCare, LiveWell Dorset and Active Dorset, and brings together a range of outpatient services under one roof in the town centre location.

Patients are being invited to attend orthopaedic, musculoskeletal and physiotherapy appointments at the centre, and can access a wealth of health and wellbeing information and advice while they are there.

There is also dedicated space for clinicians to conduct virtual appointments with patients through video and telephone calls.

The Dorchester centre is part of Dorset’s wider ‘Think Big’ initiative to help reduce waiting lists and bring diagnostic services closer to the community. This is one of the first schemes of its kind to get up and running in the country.

A similar scheme in the east of Dorset to create an outpatient assessment clinic in Beales in Poole’s Dolphin Centre will be opening soon.

Councillor Tony Ferrari, Portfolio Holder for Economic Growth, Assets and Property at Dorset Council, said: “We are proud to be working in partnership with the NHS by providing the council-owned South Walks House building to deliver health services for the next few months.

“It’s so important that we work together across the public sector to provide good services and good value to residents. This arrangement with Dorset County Hospital will help to reduce patient waiting lists, and makes good use of a vacant building while we finalise our longer term plans.”

Dorset County Hospital’s Deputy Chief Executive Nick Johnson said: “We are delighted to be working with Dorset Council and our health partners to open this new facility and make such good use of an existing public building.

“This will allow us to see and assess many more patients than is possible in our existing clinics and make significant progress in tackling waiting list backlogs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If this initiative proves successful we would be very keen to continue to run clinics in a town centre location for the convenience of our patients, as well as for the benefit of local businesses by increasing footfall in the high street.”

Nick recognised the incredible amount of work involved in getting the centre up and running so quickly. He said: “The Outpatient Assessment Centre was created in a matter of weeks thanks to an amazing team effort from everyone involved, with staff working around the clock to make it happen.

“We would like to thank our suppliers who also pulled out all the stops to meet the tight timescales – including Weymouth based firm Medisave who helped with coordinating the ordering, storage and delivery of essential equipment, and Dorset Office Furniture.”

Martin Kimberley, Active Dorset Chief Executive said they were really pleased to be involved: “It is a huge achievement in a very short time by everyone involved. This is a very tangible demonstration of how the key agencies in Dorset work innovatively, collaboratively and at speed to seek to deliver better outcomes for our residents.

“Wider wellbeing, the LiveWell Dorset service and the crucial connections into community support have been included throughout the planning. This demonstrates the fundamental commitment by all Dorset Integrated Care System partners to working differently so that there is a seamless transition from self-help and community support into clinical services and then back again. 

“We look forward to supporting our Dorset Integrated Care System partners to achieve the ambitions of the Outpatient Assessment Centre and improved outcomes for residents and patients”.

Emma Rossi, Service Manager for LiveWell Dorset added: “We are proud to be part of this fantastic project to bring health and wellbeing services into the heart of the community.

“This is a real opportunity to develop a holistic approach to care, offering patients the opportunity to receive support to make lifestyle changes that will improve treatment outcomes and help them lead longer, healthier lives.

“We’re looking forward to working alongside our NHS colleagues, offering free one-to-one coaching and advice for those looking to lose weight, become more active, stop smoking or reduce drinking.”