Taunton empty fire HQ to be hospital scanning centre

Image source, Daniel Mumby
Image caption,
Mothballed for years, the building has cost taxpayers millions of pounds to maintain

An empty fire control centre, unused since it was built in 2007, is to be turned into new hospital facilities.

The Zenith Fire Control Centre was built in Taunton as a regional centre to handle 999 calls but never opened.

Mothballed for years, the building has cost taxpayers millions of pounds to maintain.

The new diagnostic centre for the town's Musgrove Park Hospital is due to be fully operational by late 2021.

The Taunton site was one of nine planned regional control centres to replace 46 separate centres across the country.

But in 2010, with costs spiralling and major delays to the IT software programme, the scheme was scrapped.

A BBC investigation in 2017 showed the unoccupied building had cost the government more than £16m in charges.

In September, Somerset West and Taunton Council approved plans to turn the building into a new "diagnostic centre and imaging service".

The facility, will include two MRI scanners, two CT scanners, an X-ray facility and an ultrasound facility,

'Waiting too long'

The Local Democracy Reporting Service said it will be run by Rutherford Diagnostics in partnership with the Somerset NHS Foundation Trust and be available for both NHS and private patients,

Dr Steven Powell, from the company, said it will "play an important role in increasing the amount of diagnostic tests" available to patients across Somerset.

"Diagnostics centres such as ours are all the more important now given the impact of Covid-19 on testing and screening for various diseases," he said.

David Shannon, from the trust, said the hospital has already invested in additional and upgraded MRI and CT scanners to "keep pace" with growing demand.

"But even with these measures, our provision of scanning will not keep pace with demand in the future," he said.

"Our waiting times for some diagnostic tests are too long which has been made even more challenging during the pandemic.

"We want to do better for our patients."

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