TAXPAYERS have got their money back on an NHS beds unit built four years ago in Chester but never occupied.
Western Cheshire Primary Care Trust has sold the 28-bed intermediate care unit at the Countess of Chester Health Park to private company St George Healthcare for £3m – the amount it cost to build in the first place.
Warrington-based St George Healthcare aims to create 57 jobs at the unit, which was finally completed in June 2005 but has remained empty ever since.
The independent hospital will help the rehabilitation of people with neurodisabilities, which may include mental or physical disabilities, in many cases following treatment at an acute NHS hospital, in preparation for returning home.
St George Healthcare has applied for planning permission for a hydrotherapy pool at an additional bungalow at the site, having already gained planning consent for two single storey bathroom extensions.
Primary Care Trust chief executive Helen Bellairs said: “We have sold it to a company specialising in acquired brain injuries. It’s good news we’ve sold it and now we have the provision of services locally to put patients into it.”
Mrs Bellairs said patients with brain injuries would normally receive treatment at Liverpool’s Walton Hospital in the first instance but required long term rehabilitation in a unit like the one proposed for Chester.
“It’s something which is better not being done by an NHS institution but in smaller units which are usually better run by organisations other than the NHS,” added Mrs Bellairs, who said it would be “unfair” to speculate on why her predecessor body built the unit without having the funds to run it.
The building was originally commissioned by Cheshire West Primary Care Trust as a unit for mainly older patients recovering from hospital treatment.
PCT bosses later defended its decision not to occupy the building, arguing NHS thinking had changed and that it was now thought better that elderly people should be cared for in their homes with support.
St George Healthcare currently provides ‘a holistic’ neuro-behavioural rehabilitation programme for the most challenging and complex brain injury patients.
In addition, deaf people with mental health needs have access to a range of treatment and therapies unavailable on the NHS.