The decision to build a new Weston town centre medical facility will encourage health care professionals 'to come and work in the town'.

Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire CCG will build a state-of-the-art facility at Weston Rugby Club, a replacement for the 'pretty grim' Graham Road surgery to serve up to 15,000 patients, by spring 2023. The redevelopment of the site will also include commercial units and 200 homes.

In an exclusive interview with the Mercury, Dr John Heather revealed plans to provide more joined up care and additional health services for patients.

REVEALED: How plans for Weston's £3.2million health centre took shape.

On selecting Weston Rugby Club

Dr Heather, who has been a GP for more than 30 years, said: "The choice was made in the end of a very long and detailed review of several sites. We had a shortlist of 17 sites but when assessed we were left with just three; Graham Road and the rugby club, Dolphin Square and the Sovereign Shopping Centre.

"When we visited the three sites and ranked them the rugby club scored 82.5 out of a possible 100 points, way ahead of the Sovereign Centre’s 47.5. The rugby club is the closest to Drove Road by car and by foot so is the ideal location to relocate Graham Road patients.

"We have to close Graham Road because it is pretty grim and the rugby club will be a 1,100 square metre state-of-the-art healthcare facility. It gives us an opportunity to join up care."

More staff in the town centre

Nurses can be co-located to improve primary care and 48 new staff will be recruited by 2023. More primary health care consultants and specialist nurses for specific conditions such as diabetes will be based at the new site.

There will also be video conferencing facilities and the possibility of gaining a pharmacy which would not have been possible at the other sites.

MORE: Civic society 'appalled' by new health centre proposed site.

Weston Mercury: Dr John Heather. Picture: Eleanor YoungDr John Heather. Picture: Eleanor Young (Image: Eleanor Young)

Dr Heather said: "This site will encourage staff to come and work here in Weston, something which has been difficult historically to recruit GP staff into the town. The most difficult place to get them to work has been at Graham Road.

"There is an opportunity to grow services in the town centre by having a spacious building in the heart of Weston."

The rise of mental health issues

The coronavirus pandemic has seen an increase in mental health issues in patients across the area.

Dr Heather said: "Mental health problems have grown during Covid and having nurses and practitioners specialised in that field is a must for patients; their needs are better met in this way.

"We have seen more people come to us with depression and anxiety-related issues in the past 12 months. We need joined up thinking with the NHS specialists, local councillors, debt management, addiction teams in order to combat this going forward.

"The pandemic has also meant that patients with chronic diseases have not been as well-managed because we have not been able to see people face-to-face.

"We have had one year of struggling to meet and help people so it is going to take a lot of time to recover the ground we lost."

The council's view

Cllr Mike Bell, North Somerset Council’s deputy leader and executive member for adult social care and health, said: "I am delighted to see the health centre project moving forward and am confident that it will lead to a real improvement in the quality of services for residents in and around the town centre.

“There is more work to be done to bring this project to fruition, including looking for ways to further address concerns about access to the new site.

"I am sure that, working together, we can tackle any obstacles and deliver a first-class facility that is fit for the future.”