HOSPITAL redevelopment plans that would create 900 jobs and make the North-East a world leader in Alzheimer’s research were unveiled yesterday.
The Institute for Ageing and Health revealed a partnership between Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Tesco for the £100m project.
The new Campus for Ageing and Vitality is proposed for the Newcastle General Hospital site as health services are switched to the Royal Victoria Infirmary and the Freeman Hospital from next spring.
It is hoped the campus will spearhead research into combating age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other dementia and translate those findings into the commercial development of products and services for healthy living and ageing.
Professor Oliver James, pro-vice-chancellor of medical sciences at Newcastle University, said the campus aimed to become a world leader for the study of ageing.
“Our vision for this site is that in the next five years we want to be the premier place for research and treatment for elderly people wherever you are in Britain, Europe or the world.
“When you think of children’s health you think of Great Ormond Street in London and when you think of research into the ageing population we want people to think of Campus for Ageing and Vitality in Newcastle.”
The Institute for Ageing and Health, which is part of Newcastle University and works closely with clinicians from the NHS, is already based on the Newcastle General Hospital site and is leading research on healthy ageing and age-related disorders.
The institute is already the best of its kind in Europe and its further growth as a world leader is a key element of the Newcastle Science City programme. The “hub” of Science City is planned for the former Tyne Brewery site in Newcastle city centre, but the Institute for Ageing and Health arm would be based at the Campus for Ageing and Vitality.
There will also be an NHS walk-in medical centre, a nutritional centre and specialist care for older people.
The front line proposal of the campus in West Road is a suggested 60,000sqft Tesco store.
A store of that size would create about 300 jobs in addition to 600 jobs the NHS and university estimate they would bring in.
Newcastle Hospitals Trust chief executive Len Fenwick explained the decision to bring Tesco on board. He said: “It brings the opportunity to underwrite the cost of regeneration of the Newcastle Hospital site.
“It is a major injection of capital funding for new buildings and facilities. They are complementing the research and development work we see.” He said once the three-week consultation exhibition ended at Newcastle General on August 24, the trust would consider the views of the public.
Mr Fenwick said: “It is extremely exciting as Newcastle is already acknowledged as a centre of excellence in respect of research involving aging and regenerative medicine. It serves to reinforce and sustain that lead.”
Neighbours fear project would destroy community
PROTESTERS made their voices heard after attending the public exhibition of plans for the proposed campus at Newcastle General Hospital.
A number of people living in the area opposed plans for a Tesco supermarket on the site, while NHS workers fear what would happen to them in the redevelopment.
Helen Davies, 28, of Brighton Grove in Fenham, Newcastle, said: “I am against Tesco being here. It is a big spin that the Tesco supermarket will be really healthy eating.
“They are a supermarket and will sell all sorts of food. It’s a smoke screen.
“The plans don’t give any information about the height of the buildings, which is really important to residents. The area around Arthur’s Hill, like Stanhope Street and West Road, will suffer. People like the small shops there, but they will lose trade.”
Joan McGuinness, 66, a domestic service assistant in the young people’s unit at Newcastle General site fears for her job.
She said: “I won’t go to the new place as it’s over an hour on the bus from where I live.
“But I am sure it will benefit patients as it will be new facilities.” Brian Smith, 61, of Westholme Gardens on the Condercum Park Estate, said: “I think it will destroy the community.
“I would like a recreation or community area. I think the supermarket will destroy the West Road. It will ruin the shops in the town.
“The traffic will be a problem too – it is bad enough already.”
Tesco corporate affairs manager Max Curtis said the shop would be a “Regeneration Partnership” store which would ensure up to 50% of staff recruited would be long-term unemployed people in the community.
The decision on whether the area needed another supermarket was for the council to take.
He said: “The West End of Newcastle has a real diverse range of shops. I think our store will bring people to the area who perhaps haven’t looked at the West End before.
“This is a real opportunity for these shops to make our customers their customers.”
Vitality campus 'could aid many'
IT is argued the Campus for Ageing and Vitality would see unique collaborations between science, business and retail, ensuring Newcastle gained a worldwide reputation for excellence in:
Understanding the ageing process;
Identifying ways in which we can all reach old age as healthily as possible;
Combating age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia;
Translating these findings into daily life through development of products and services aimed at healthy living and ageing.
The Campus for Aging and Vitality envisages building on the reputation for excellence the institute has forged by providing the latest medical and research facilities.
It is proposed that by the middle of 2008 there would be a basic ageing research centre; MRI and PET scanning research; brain research; and clinical research on elderly people, including studies into Parkinson’s, dizziness, falls and memory.
In five to seven years, the university hopes to attract businesses and applied-research organisations to pool expertise in research on elderly people and ageing to improve products for older people.
In the next few years, most of the health services currently provided by Newcastle General Hospital will move to a new base at the city’s Royal Victoria Infirmary and Freeman Hospital as part of a £304m building and reorganisation project.
New health services on the campus would include:
A walk-in medical centre treating 60,000 patients each year to replace Westgate Walk-In Centre;
Specialist care for older people and the development of new technologies to enable older people to continue to live independently.
Plans announced by Tesco outlined a store that would provide accessible shopping for older people and healthy living options and incentives for the local community.
The company said it would also be exploring ways in which products and services developed on the campus and aimed at making life easier for older people could be road-tested in the store.
It is looking at the possibility of having an underground car park, and at building an environmentally friendly store with thermal energy.
A public exhibition on the plans runs at the front of the Newcastle General Hospital site until August 24.
Members of the public can feed back their ideas on the proposed campus at the exhibition, by picking up a leaflet at the exhibition and returning comments via Freepost or by visiting the website www.healthylivingforlife.com
There will also be an opportunity for people to put their questions to representatives from the campus who will be at the exhibition on August 23.
A planning application for the campus will be submitted to Newcastle City Council later this year.