WORK has begun on the construction of a new £19million community diagnostic centre (CDC) in Workington town centre.

The centre will be located next to Cumberland Council’s government-funded innovation hub which is also under development in Central Way.

Referrals to diagnostic services in north Cumbria have doubled over the past three years which has led to longer waiting times.

The team at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust (NCIC) said it has worked hard to reduce waiting times by providing temporary mobile units at the Cumberland Infirmary and West Cumberland Hospital, but the new CDC provides a more permanent solution separate to the busy acute hospital sites.

MRI, CT, X-ray and ultrasound scanning facilities will be available as well as consultation facilities.

Faster diagnostics is key to diagnosing a range of conditions, including cancer, as early as possible. If a patient needs more than one type of scan, the centre will aim to provide them in one visit to reduce travelling and waiting times for diagnoses, the Trust added.

Dr Madhu Varma, clinical director of speciality medicine and consultant cardiologist, said “We are all delighted that work has now started to build the new centre. Our teams have been working hard to recover from the long-lasting impact that COVID-19 had on our waiting lists and are we are making good progress.

"By providing more diagnostics, this will help with quicker diagnoses of a range of conditions.”

Allerdale Borough Council had previously supported the development with land allocation and this support is now continuing through Cumberland Council.

Leader of Cumberland Council, Cllr Mark Fryer, said: “We are delighted to support this project and our officers have been working closely with the NCIC team to ensure a collaborative approach to both developments. All the plans are great news for Workington and Cumberland as a whole.”

GRAHAM is the principal construction contractor for the development which is expected to open to patients in spring 2025.

Peter Reavey, regional director at GRAHAM, commented: “We are delighted to be building the new CDC, providing patients in West Cumbria with access to diagnostic care closer to home.

"GRAHAM is pleased to be continuing our relationship with NCIC, working towards a shared vision to deliver high-quality healthcare services in Cumbria.

"The foundations of the new building have been laid and by the end of the year, it will start to take shape. We are hoping that we will be up and running by next summer."

Dr Varma added: “When determining the location for the centre, we considered population demand and health needs as well as travel distance and access. Workington town centre is the ideal location for the CDC and is accessible via public transport. Being next to Cumberland Council’s Innovation Hub also presents excellent opportunities to work in partnership.

“With phase two of the redevelopment of West Cumberland Hospital due to complete this summer, this is another fantastic investment in health services in the county.”

Workington MP Mark Jenkinson said: “It is fantastic to see work gathering pace on the community diagnostic centre in Workington. 

“This will enable residents to access quicker diagnosis and treatment - and importantly free up other areas of the NHS – just as I set out in my plan for the constituency back in 2019."