Birmingham’s Grand Central to be pilot diagnostic centre

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The Grand Central shopping centre in Birmingham could become the home of a diagnostics hub under £7 million proposals.

The exact siting of the pilot centre above New Street station is not yet known but it will not be occupying the large department store unit which housed John Lewis until its recent closure.

The proposal was presented to an overview and scrutiny meeting of the West Midlands Combined Authority.

The £6.95 million plans could see equipment including an MRI scanner, X-ray machine and mammography kit installed at the city centre location where it would rub shoulders with a host of shops, cafés and restaurants.

The idea behind the proposals is to close the gap on diagnostics created by the coronavirus pandemic, with a 60 per cent drop in referrals and a 20 per cent drop in the number of patients starting treatment over the past six months.

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If handed the green light, Grand Central would be a test pilot site, with plans to roll out more diagnostics centres to other high streets as a further £6 million in funding is made available.

Concerns were raised at the meeting about its location.

Chairwoman Cllr Lisa Trickett said: “Pilots too often happen in areas or to people who have the least need for it.

“So if you’re seeking to address inequality then Grand Central is clearly the wrong place.

“If you’re looking to make a case and show a benefit to employers in the city centre by having a diagnostics hub then it might well be the right place.”

Cllr Richard Brown added: “It talks about a reduction in referrals of 60 per cent.

“And I’m making an assumption here, which is probably dangerous, but most of those would have come from GPs.

“I’m struggling to understand how this proposal is going to address that.

“If people are not going to their GP and therefore we’re not getting the referrals via a GP, why are they going to go to Grand Central and get a referral?

“If they’re scared to go their GP, then they’re going to be just as scared going to Grand Central. I don’t think we’re going to be hitting the right people here.”

Responding to the concerns, chief executive of the combined authority Deborah Cadman acknowledged there were other areas that would also benefit from such a scheme.

She added the plan was to use the experience at Grand Central as a building block for the launch of further diagnostics centres.

“I don’t see this project as being the only project that we deliver of this type,” she said.

“This is a pilot to make sure that it works, and we then roll out into our high streets.”


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