WORK to build a doctors’ surgery which will serve 8000 people is under way in the grounds of one of the Capital’s most famous landmarks.
The £4 million West End Medical Practice development has been hailed as the surgery of the future due to its modern internal open-plan design, eight consultancy rooms and treatment rooms.
But it will also incorporate a rebuilt stonemasons’ workshop and refurbished church hall beside St Mary’s Cathedral in Palmerston Place.
The practice, which will replace the Chester Street premises, is expected to open in spring next year.
The beginning of construction work marks a significant development in the project, which attracted scepticism from many quarters when it was first suggested in early 2011 – as it lies within a world heritage site.
A cherry tree planted by the Queen Mother on a visit to the cathedral will have to be removed, but NHS Lothian said the specimen had become diseased and would have been chopped down anyway.
It is among 14 trees that are having to be removed, although 48 will be planted in their place as part of the landscaping around the new building.
The provost of the cathedral, the Very Rev Dr Graham Forbes CBE, said: “St Mary’s is very pleased that this exciting venture with NHS Lothian will be shortly starting on site.
“And we are confident that the new medical centre will reinforce the cathedral’s ongoing vision of a wider role in the community.”
The surgery also incorporates a lecture theatre, increasing the opportunities for the on-site training of young doctors and medical students.
Shulah Allan, chair of the Edinburgh Community Health Partnership and vice-chair of the NHS Lothian board, said: “A great deal of work has gone into getting to this stage and I am extremely pleased that the development is about to get under way.
“The proposed new practice premises which will bring modern and up-to-the minute healthcare facilities and integrated community services will I am sure be welcomed by the local community.”
A full range of primary care services will be offered, including an antenatal clinic and a chronic disease management clinic.
The project is a partnership scheme between NHS Lothian, St Mary’s Cathedral and the medical practice.
St Mary’s will own the premises and lease it to NHS Lothian for 25 years, with an option available for a further 25-year lease.
Dr Dean Pope, a partner at the West End Medical Practice and one of six doctors at the new facility, said: “We are delighted that the first steps have been taken towards our new build premises.
“And we look forward to the day that we can provide improved facilities for our patient population.”
The Walpole Hall, which is sited beside the cathedral and has been used as a church hall since it was built in 1933, will be refurbished.
It will be used as a hub, incorporating a coffee bar and a stage for performing arts and meetings.