A STATE-OF-THE-ART diagnostics centre serving patients from across Somerset and surrounding areas has officially opened.
The centre – in the building formerly planned to house the much-vaunted Tri Service Centre in Taunton – will give patients increased access to diagnostic tests which inform their treatment and enable them to have their diagnostic tests in a stand-along modern facility away from a busy hospital.
The Rutherford Diagnostic Centre Somerset, on the Blackbrook Business Park, is the first community diagnostics centre of its kind in England.
It is being run by Rutherford Diagnostics Limited, in partnership with Somerset NHS Foundation Trust.
The centre will provide diagnostic services including Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Computed Tomography (CT), Ultrasound and X-Ray on equipment provided by Rutherford’s technology partner, Philips.
The centre was officially opened by the renowned cancer specialist, Professor Sir Mike Richards CBE, former National Cancer Director in the Department of Health and author of an independent review of NHS diagnostics capacity.
The report, Diagnostics: Recovery and Renewal, says major expansion and reform of diagnostic services is needed to facilitate recovery from the pandemic and to meet rising demand.
One of the report’s key recommendations is the development of community diagnostic hubs away from acute hospital sites, such as that at Blackbrook.
Professor Sir Mike said: “I’m delighted to have formally opened the first community diagnostics centre run by the independent sector in partnership with the NHS.
“Even prior to the pandemic the need for more diagnostic services was very clear and the last 18 months have underlined how important it is to rise to meet this challenge successfully.
“I heartily congratulate Somerset NHS Foundation Trust and Rutherford.”
Davinia Fox, from Wellington, was the first patient to be seen at the new Rutherford Diagnostic Centre.
She said: “I’m thrilled to be the first person seen at the new diagnostic centre. The centre is so accessible and I found it so much easier to get here and not to have to worry about the parking at Musgrove Park Hospital, which was a real weight off my mind.
“The new building is so spacious and I found the staff really friendly – I had much less of a wait for my scan and I couldn’t fault the care I received.
“I’m so grateful for everything they have done for me.”
Peter Lewis, chief executive of Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This is a fantastic facility for patients in Somerset and the surrounding areas.
“We entered into our partnership with Rutherford Diagnostics Limited in June 2020 because, despite our investment in MRI and CT scanners, and our continued use of mobile scanners, we were concerned that our trust would not keep pace with demand for diagnostic tests in the future.
“We had to look for a different solution and were delighted to enter into our partnership with Rutherford Diagnostics.
“As a result our patients have access to diagnostic tests at this modern stand-alone facility away from a busy hospital.
“This is part of the new recommended way forward for the NHS and has become more important as a result of the global pandemic.
“It also brings real benefits for our radiology, radiographic and booking colleagues who will be working alongside Rutherford’s staff in the centre, enabling them to work in more diverse environments and expand their experience.
“The centre also helps us to prioritise the capacity that we have available at Musgrove Park Hospital for emergency patients or those who are already in the hospital.
“This is not only good for our patients, but also the way we care for people across the whole Somerset healthcare system by enabling them to have imaging scans away from the acute hospital.”
The centre is the first of up to five centres that Rutherford intends to develop under an agreement between Rutherford Health plc and Equitix, a leading investor, developer and long-term fund manager of core infrastructure and energy-efficient assets in the UK and Europe. Philips will provide the innovative technology at the five sites.
The additional capacity at the Rutherford Diagnostic Centre Somerset enables Somerset NHS Foundation Trust to increase its CT capacity by a quarter immediately and its MRI capacity by a quarter within three months and scan a larger proportion of patients who require complex scanning.
NHS organisations in Somerset are planning to provide 99% of patients with diagnostic imaging within the six-week national standard by March 2022 subject to waiting lists remaining steady and the NHS will monitor its progress closely.
Mike Moran, chief executive officer of Rutherford Health, said: “There has never been a more important time for innovative partnering in healthcare in the UK, to ensure patients get access to earlier diagnosis and the best treatment as quickly as possible.
“The importance of early diagnosis cannot be overstated, it should be the cornerstone of any health system.
“This centre is a major step forward in addressing the rising demand for diagnostic services across Somerset and we are delighted to be working in collaboration with the Somerset NHS Foundation Trust to deliver tangible benefit to their patients.
“This centre is the first of its kind and it was delivered on time and to budget, in the same way we did with our four Rutherford cancer treatment centres.
“Our plan is to establish another four community diagnostic centres around the country to help meet the need for wider diagnostic provision.
“In this way, we can continue to support the NHS to manage the growing backlog caused by the pandemic and track down the missing patients that need treatment urgently.”
Stephen McMillan, head of solutions at Philips UKI, said: “The Rutherford Diagnostic Centre Somerset provides patients and staff access to some of the most cutting-edge diagnostic imaging equipment, including the Philips IQon Spectral CT, the world’s first detector-based spectral CT and the Philips Ingenia Ambition X MR, featuring our fully sealed BlueSeal magnet technology for almost helium-free MR operations.
“Imaging rooms will also include Philips Ambient Experience solution, which enables patients to control and personalise their own imaging environment through selecting from a range of colour and video themes.”
Hugh Crossley, chief executive officer for Equitix said: “Equitix has long been an investor in, and supporter of, critical healthcare facilities, and has demonstrated a strong track record in its ownership and management of healthcare assets in the UK.
“This is particularly so during this recent time of crisis when we have been working to support the NHS and, as such, we are pleased to be further consolidating our capabilities and adding this asset to our investment portfolios.
“We look forward to developing many more of the same in partnership with Rutherford. ”