30 July 2008,

Secretary of State for Health opens £multi-million Gem Centre

Secretary of State for Health opens £multi-million Gem Centre - 30th July 2008

The Secretary of State for Health, the Right Honourable Alan Johnson MP, has officially opened the Gem Centre for Children and Young People at Bentley Bridge, Wednesfield.

The Secretary of State unveiled a plaque and spent 90 minutes touring the facility and meeting staff and some of the children and young people who attend the centre for treatment.

The striking £six million development opened in April 2006 and provides specialist community health services for children and young people - including paediatrics, specialist children's nursing, child and adolescent mental health services, hearing services, school nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy, as well as local authority and voluntary services - under one roof.  

The Secretary of State said: "What really inspires me about this building is the approach by people to work together. It is a classic example of the NHS working with the Local Authority to provide services.

"It's breathtaking. It is not just the level of partnership, the building is just fabulous. Everywhere you go you feel you are in some smart resort. It does justice to the people working here together."

He added that he had been "badgered" to visit the Gem Centre by the city's three MPs and by Ed Balls, Minister for Children, Schools and Families, who had been so impressed with the centre after visiting earlier this year.

Jon Crockett, chief executive of Wolverhampton City Primary Care Trust, said: "The Gem Centre is one of the first of its kind in the country and we were delighted the Secretary of State officially opened these purpose-built, state-of-the-art facilities we have developed in the city for children and young people with special health needs.

"Having services together in one centre for the first time in the city enables staff to offer children and their parents a personalised, co-ordinated service with clinic appointments with different professionals - such as the paediatrician, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, and audiologist - on the same day, thus reducing the number of times they have to visit."

Mum Lucy Pearce, whose daughter Maggie Dean, is two next month said: "The centre shows the whole of Wolverhampton what we have and highlights what's available. Some mothers might be frightened as it is very daunting when you are told your child has special needs, but everyone is really friendly."

Centre user Michael Southan, aged 17, attended its topping-out ceremony in 2005. He said: "It's a great place - people can come and get support for different needs. It's made life such a lot easier."  

As well as meeting young patients and their carers, the minister also met Pat McFadden, MP for Wolverhampton south east and the PCT's chief executive Jon Crockett, chairman Barry Picken and managing director for provider services Maxine Espley.

During his tour he also spoke to consultant paediatrician Dr Angela Moore, Chris Webb, general manager of children, young people and families directorate, consultant psychologist Dr Enno Kuttner, Jill Wellings, lead for the child development centre based at the Gem Centre and Lucy Harris from the Parents Partnership Service.

Other dignitaries at the event included David Loughton, chief executive and Alan Edwards, chairman of The Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust, Cllr Neville Patten, leader of Wolverhampton City Council, Cllr Patricia Patten, lead for health scrutiny and Sarah Norman, director for adults and community services.


Editor's notes:

A number of service users, parents and carers were involved in the design of the building and asked what facilities and services they would like to see provided at the centre.

The Gem Centre is the second centre in the city to be developed under the LIFT initiative - a public-private partnership to improve community health and social services facilities across the city.  The first building - the £2.5 million Phoenix Health Centre at Parkfields - opened in December 2005 and a third, Mayfields Medical Centre, in 2006.   

For more information, please contact Wolverhampton City PCT's Press Office:

Press officers Susan Turner on 01902 444881 or Jo Nicholls on 01902 444329.
If unavailable call 01902 444757 and ask for duty press officer.