Published: March 13, 2022 | Updated: March 14, 2022

Final brick as £4.5m investment in new clinical rehabilitation centre gets closer to completion

Professor Lesley Haig, Vice Chancellor, AECC University College, prepares to lay the final brick of its new clinical rehabilitation centre. Picture: AECC University College/Finnbarr Webster.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

“This is a really, really good news story.

“Good for us, good for our communities and good for our partners.”

With those words, Professor Lesley Haig, Vice Chancellor of AECC University College, put the final brick into the outer building of its new clinical rehabilitation centre.

The topping out ceremony marked the completion of the building structure by Mildren Construction Limited.

The £4.5m investment in facilities, works and specialist healthcare equipment forms a key part of the University College’s clinical service offering to the community.

The new building in Parkwood Road, Boscombe, is the flagship project within a broader programme of developments that includes:

  • Upgrades to other areas of the estate
  • Developing new patient services
  • Providing new jobs
  • Increasing the number of students studying health degrees

Due to open to the public from September, the state-of-the-art facility is set to be a national leader for community rehabilitation, bringing much-needed capacity to the region.

It will provide nine treatment rooms and a large multi-zoned physical rehabilitation space to help people get back to health and mobility after injury or illness.

The 754 square metre centre will allow the University College to make available an even broader range of clinical and rehabilitation services .

It already offers the local community chiropractic treatment, specialist MRI, ultrasound, x-ray, physiotherapy, a breastfeeding clinic and first contact physiotherapy.

The additional clinical services include physical and sport rehabilitation, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, dietetics, podiatry and more.

They’ll also support the delivery of new health sciences courses at AECC University College and provide much-needed training placement capacity.

Students will have the chance to learn and practise in a multi-professional environment under the expert supervision of practising clinicians.

Professor Haig, pictured left, said: “This is a state-of-the-art facility and a flagship development that will make AECC University College one of the national leaders in health sciences education and care – with its heart in the community of Boscombe.

“Through our facilities the community receives access to practising clinicians across a wide range of healthcare professions, and our students get to learn and practise with cutting-edge technology.

“This provides a truly inspiring environment in which to deliver excellent education, clinical care and applied research.

“We are supporting Boscombe, Bournemouth and Dorset healthcare providers, working closely with our Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) partners to help support the healthcare system and provide community diagnostics.

“With the NHS experiencing additional pressure with Covid-19, we are able to help fill those gaps that we know exist in the system.

“We have also listened to our partners and where their workforce gaps are.

“In response to this we have formed an integrated rehabilitation centre.

“Part of that is the new building and also the new services that are being delivered already.

“In five years’ time, AECC University College will be a world-class educational facility in terms of both our equipment and services offered through our clinics and our Imaging Centre of Excellence.

“We will double our student numbers.

“This means we can help more students into jobs to help the NHS, but we can also help more people in the community to recover from injury and live better for longer.

“The University College is working with international partners to collaborate in research developments in rehabilitation sciences, helping to push forward the boundaries of healthcare delivery to optimise patient outcomes.”

As well as the NHS and Dorset CCG, the University College works with private providers and also provides a self-referral service for anyone needing support.

They can range from sports injury rehabilitation and alleviating back, neck and shoulder pain to helping older people recover normal mobility and function after a fall.

The facilities include an open upright MRI scanner, pictured, one of only six in the country.

Patients sit and stand, rather than lie inside a tightly confined space.

It’s especially helpful for patients who have mobility issues or suffer with claustrophobia and, therefore, are unable to tolerate the tightly confined space experienced within a standard MRI scanner.

The University College is also currently developing its simulated education and training facilities.

The development of a digital skills innovation suite will incorporate radiology and radiotherapy simulation, immersive virtual reality and high-fidelity mannequins and a digital skills training hub to support educational delivery.

The new multi-million-pound centre was enabled by a £2.7 million Getting Building Fund grant funding allocation by Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

AECC University College is providing additional funding towards the cost of the facilities and suite of courses and services that will be available to the community.

Dorset LEP secured £11.8 million of the government’s Getting Building Fund in 2020, set up in response to economic challenges of the pandemic.

The new facility at the AECC University College is one of nine projects supported by Dorset LEP through this fund.

Nicola Newman, pictured left, private sector Dorset LEP Board member, said: “In allocating our Getting Building Fund, we were keen to identify projects that will aid recovery while also developing an uplift in Dorset’s skills provision and build on existing specialisms.

“Healthcare is the largest employment sector in our region and projected to continue to grow, yet there is a skills gap challenge in the future workforce, which this project helps to address.

“Dorset’s current population age demographic is indicative of the national picture in the next 30 years, making us a perfect test-bed for the rest of the county.

“This means innovative approaches to integrate community clinical services, while developing skills and talent for future healthcare provision, is especially important in Dorset.

“I’m delighted with the progress of this centre, which has the potential to significantly enhance the health and welfare of Dorset’s residents, particularly the local population in Boscombe and Bournemouth East.”