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Empty shopping centre units converted into NHS health hub and Citizens Advice centre thanks to Mayor’s £6m Town Centre Fund

  • Purpose-built Citizens Advice Halton replaces closed-down Runcorn branch
  • Halton Health Hub becomes one of the first of its kind in the UK
  • NHS eye and hearing services available along with dietetics
  • Flu and Covid jabs with extended GP access

A disused corner of a 1970s shopping centre has been brought back to life as a popular hub for advice and healthcare thanks to Mayor Steve Rotheram’s Town Centre Fund and the NHS.

Empty units in Runcorn Shopping City have been renovated to create a purpose-built Citizens Advice centre and the Halton Health Hub – in partnership with Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (WHH).

The new facilities came from the Liverpool City Region Town Centre Fund which set aside £6m – up to £1m for each of six local authorities – to support plans to revitalise town centres.

The fund has supported masterplan strategies, public realm improvements, physical and digital infrastructure, business support, town centre management and events and marketing activities.

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said:

“Being a member of the Liverpool City Region means that Halton can benefit from region-wide investments, like my Town Centre Fund. We’re targeting investment into projects, such as Halton Health Hub and Citizens Advice Halton, that are helping us to reimage and reshape our communities for the better.

“To put it simply: projects like these might not otherwise have been possible before devolution, which has given areas like ours the opportunity to chart our own course and invest in schemes that will make a genuine difference to our residents’ lives.

“I want every part of our area to be given an equal chance to prosper because, for far too long, too many communities across the North have been starved of any ambitious funding by governments of all stripes. This is real levelling up in action – and it’s one step closer towards my ambition of building a fairer, more equal future for the 1.6 million people who call our area home – where no one is left behind.”

The Halton Health Hub was developed in partnership with Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

It was also supported by over £500,000 in funding from Warrington and Halton NHS Trust with additional paediatric play equipment funded by £6,000 in donations from Halton Borough Council and One Halton.

The hub offers three clinical services: dietetics, orthoptics and audiology and aims to offer 72 appointments each week.

Halton Borough Council are now also offering a flu and covid vaccine clinic and GPs have established an acute respiratory hub service three days per week, with GP extended access due to commence in February.

Further funding of £1.3m from NHS England’s Community Diagnostic Centre programme has been secured by the Trust to offer additional services, including sleep studies, phlebotomy and ultrasound later in the year.

The refurbishment used £350,000 from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s Town Centre Fund for Halton Lea, alongside funding from WHH, to create five consultation rooms and two diagnostic imaging rooms.

A former B&M store was completely refitted, making it easier and more accessible for patients to attend appointments.

Lucy Gardner, Director of Strategy and Partnerships at Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals, said:

“We are delighted to be able to open Halton Health Hub in Runcorn Shopping City. We are very grateful to our partners, in particular Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and Halton Borough Council, without whom this would not have been possible.

“It is important to be able to provide more healthcare within the community, supporting residents to be able to access care more easily and more quickly. Our health hub in Runcorn Shopping City is one of the first of its kind in the country. It will not only enable us to provide more appointments in the heart of the community but also support Runcorn Shopping City, a valued community asset, to thrive, bringing healthcare and retail together.”

The new Citizen’s Advice branch opened this year – replacing the town’s old advice centre which closed during Covid when the building was sold for development. The refurbishment used £100,000 from the Town Centre Fund.

Hitesh Patel, chief executive at Citizens Advice Halton, said:

“The unit was just a shell and we had to have it stripped down, new fittings, wiring. Without the Town Centre Fund we could never have afforded to relocate into a shopping centre and then kit out the premises.

“The need for Citizen’s Advice has never been greater and it is great that we are in the town centre. We don’t just help people with benefits and debt but provide a range of other support such as access to fuel vouchers, food vouchers, employment help and job search – these are things that can help people who are struggling to put food on the table.

“Being in an accessible place means that people will come to us much earlier rather than waiting until they are at crisis point. The shopping centre is the heart of the community, where people come to do their shopping, so when they need help we are literally on their doorstep.”

Dave Pearman, Shopping Centre Manager at Runcorn Shopping City, said:

“Bringing in Citizen’s Advice was really important. We had early conversations with them about their requirements and the public’s needs of being able to go to a physical place and talk to an expert who can help them. People need an accessible public place where they can come in and talk face-to face and it is really important that we have that in the centre.

“We are also delighted to have the NHS trust here in the heart of the community. We think this is going to form a blueprint for lots of other locations up and down the country. It ticks so many boxes – whether people are shopping, meeting friends or having a medical appointment. I see this in the future as being as common as going into a Boots pharmacy.”

Cllr Dave Thompson, Deputy Leader, Halton Borough Council, said:

“Initiatives like the NHS Health Hub and the Citizens Advice Bureau relocation are really important because they mean that local people have access to the services they need, close to home and in a place that they can easily get to. Both these projects are great examples of how strong regional and local partnerships, supported by funding, can make a real difference to people. We have been delighted to support them.”