AECC University College celebrates new £4.5 million investment in new clinical rehabilitation centre and specialist equipment

AECC University College staff and students are celebrating the Topping Out Ceremony as their new rehabilitation centre building structure is completed. This is a £4.5m investment in facilities, works and specialist healthcare equipment – which will form an important part of the University College’s clinical service offering to the community.

Part of the Topping Out Ceremony involved putting the final brick into the outer building of the new clinical rehabilitation centre by local firm Mildren Construction Limited. The new 754 square metre building marks a significant investment in the future of the campus.

The new building is the flagship project within a broader programme of developments which will also provide upgrades to other areas of the estate, develop new patient services, provide new jobs, and increase the number of students studying health degrees. AECC University College has been working closely with partners across the Dorset Integrated Care System, other public, voluntary and independent sector partners to developing a suite of new training courses in key areas to help fill local workforce gaps.

These new developments will provide a significant boost to the Bournemouth East community economy going forwards, ensuring that Boscombe is home to a specialist health sciences university and a recognised centre of excellence in clinical and rehabilitation education, care and research. The new rehabilitation centre will provide nine treatment rooms and a large multi-zoned physical rehabilitation space to help people get back to health and mobility after injury or illness.

The new facility will be open to the public from September 2022, and will allow the University College to add an even broader range of clinical and rehabilitation services to their current offering – AECC University College already offers the local community chiropractic treatment, specialist MRI, ultrasound, x-ray, physiotherapy, a breastfeeding clinic and first contact physiotherapy. The new facilities will now allow the institution to also offer clinical services in physical and sport rehabilitation, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, dietetics, podiatry and more.

The new facilities will also support the delivery of new health sciences courses at AECC University College, providing much needed training placement capacity and give its students the chance to learn and practise in a multi-professional environment under expert supervision of practising clinicians.

AECC University College, on Parkwood Road, Boscombe, works with the NHS and the Dorset CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group), private providers as well as providing a self-referral service for anyone needing support – from sports injury rehabilitation and alleviating back, neck and shoulder pain to helping older people recover normal mobility and function after a fall. The state-of-the-art facilities also includes an open upright MRI scanner, one of only six in the country, which is helpful for patients who have mobility issues or suffer with claustrophobia and therefore are unable to tolerate the tightly confined space experienced within a standard MRI scanner as they sit and stand, rather than lie inside a tightly confined space.

The University College is also currently developing its simulated education and training facilities, with the development of a digital skills innovation suite incorporating radiology and radiotherapy simulation, immersive virtual reality and high-fidelity mannequins and a digital skills training hub to support educational delivery.

AECC University College’s facilities are open for public utilisation and feature a cafe and bookable rooms for community use. We will provide a world-leading university and health care service which sits at the heart of the community. Across the next five years, AECC University College plans to double its student numbers and to provide more services, classes and courses to the community – including providing postgraduate courses for mature students who aren’t currently in a health care role and are wishing to take up a new career in health sciences. Such courses are to include speech and language therapy, occupational health, dietary and podiatry, which will commence in January 2023.

Vice Chancellor of AECC University College, Professor Lesley Haig, said: “This is a state-of-the-art facility and a flagship development that will make AECC University College one of the national leaders in health sciences education and care – with its heart in the community of Boscombe. Through our facilities the community receives access to practising clinicians across a wide range of healthcare professions, and our students get to learn and practise with cutting-edge technology. This provides a truly inspiring environment in which to delivery excellent education, clinical care and applied research.

“We are supporting Boscombe, Bournemouth and Dorset healthcare providers, working closely with our Dorset CCG partners to help support the healthcare system and provide community diagnostics. With the NHS experiencing additional pressure with Covid-19, we are able to help fill those gaps that we know exist in the system. We have also listened to our partners and where their workforce gaps are. In response to this we have formed an integrated rehabilitation centre – part of that is the new building and also the new services that are being delivered already.

“In five years’ time, AECC University College will be a world-class educational facility in terms of both our equipment and services offered through our clinics and our Imaging Centre of Excellence. We will double our student numbers – this means we can help more students into jobs to help the NHS, but we can also help more people in the community to recover from injury and live better for longer. The University College is working with international partners to collaborate in research developments in rehabilitation sciences, helping to push forward the boundaries of healthcare delivery to optimise patient outcomes .”

The new multi-million-pound state of the art facilities were enabled by a £2.7 million Getting Building Fund grant funding allocation by Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). AECC University College will be providing additional funding towards the cost of the facilities and suite of courses and services that will be available to the community.

Dorset LEP secured £11.8 million of the government’s Getting Building Fund in 2020, set up in response to economic challenges of the pandemic. The new facility at the AECC University College is one of nine projects supported by Dorset LEP through this fund.

Nicola Newman, private sector Dorset LEP board member said:

“In allocating our Getting Building Fund, we were keen to identify projects that will aid recovery while also developing an uplift in Dorset’s skills provision and build on existing specialisms. Healthcare is the largest employment sector in our region and projected to continue to grow, yet there is a skills gap challenge in the future workforce, which this project helps to address.

“Dorset’s current population age demographic is indicative of the national picture in the next thirty years, making us a perfect test-bed for the rest of the county. This means innovative approaches to integrate community clinical services, while developing skills and talent for future healthcare provision, is especially important in Dorset. I’m delighted with the progress of this centre, which has the potential to significantly enhance the health and welfare of Dorset’s residents, particularly the local population in Boscombe and Bournemouth East.”