A £3.7m health centre to take the strain off Queen Alexandra Hospital has finally opened in the heart of Havant.
The first patients visited the state-of-the-art community hospital yesterday and The News was given an exclusive tour of the bright and spacious building.
The facility, called Oak Park Community Clinic, is off Lavant Drive and comes after years of campaigning by residents.
Services going into operation this week are podiatry, physiotherapy, and outpatient consultations.
Next month more services will move in, including X-ray and ultrasound, a Rapid Assessment Unit for Older People and a diabetic retinopathy clinic.
The facility will mean thousands of patients across Havant and East Hampshire will no longer have to go to Queen Alexandra for consultations.
Bill Green, an eye surgeon based at Queen Alexandra, will be running an outreach clinic in Havant.
He said: ‘I am very pleased to be moving to wonderful new premises. It’s very well equipped – I am very impressed.’
Gareth Klepacz, a podiatrist, said: ‘The rooms are lovely and bright.
‘It’s a much bigger facility with much more storage.’
The building work has taken over a year.
It involved extending the Oak Park Children’s Centre – a £4m facility that opened in 2006 – and renovating the inside.
The children’s centre has been updated and includes a new reception.
Marge Harvey, councillor for Rowlands Castle, was at the opening yesterday.
She said: ‘This is a brilliant facility.
‘It makes such a difference – not only to the population of Havant, but the southern parishes of East Hampshire. I think this is going to take the pressure off Queen Alexandra Hospital tremendously.’
James Bawn, head of development for Hampshire Primary Care Trust, said: ‘We hope residents share our view that this clinic will be a huge asset to Havant and East Hampshire, bringing together various services on people’s doorsteps.
‘The NHS is really proud of what has been achieved here and we are very grateful to a number of key local stakeholders, including residents and politicians, who have helped us shape the services provided here.
‘It’s been a real community effort – and hopefully the community will feel the benefits for years to come.’