The government today (Tuesday 18 December) announced a £132m wave of new "supersurgeries" and NHS community hospitals.
Facilities will now be built or refurbished in towns and cities across the country as part of a major drive to provide NHS patients with more minor operations, medical tests and follow-up care in primary care facilities outside of large hospitals.
This includes the transformation of several "outdated" hospitals into modern community hospitals, says the Department of Health (DH).
There will also be a new health centre in Hartlepool that will house GP services and offer a walk-in service for patients with minor injuries and illnesses, as well as other additional services, such as maternity and diagnostic services.
Health Minister Ben Bradshaw said: "Community hospitals are an important part of the NHS. These schemes, worth close to £132m in total, will be welcome news to local communities and offer local people a variety of important services.
"These developments represent our commitment to the biggest hospital building programme in the history of the NHS. What this means for patients today is that, in addition to being treated in bright, modern facilities, those in need of NHS treatment will be seen quicker – in 18 weeks or less by the end of 2008.
"We are not just building like-for-like replacements of existing buildings, we are rethinking the way the NHS provides care so that patients receive better, more convenient services."
In July 2006, the DH invited PCTs to bid for £750m in funding to build a new generation of community hospitals, health centres and polyclinics. Today's announcement approves 23 schemes with a total value of £272m – with further schemes under consideration.