CONSTRUCTION of a new £5m health centre in Chipping Norton started this week.

GPs cut the first turf on site to mark the beginning of the 2,000 sq metre development in Russell Way, off London Road, next to the town's War Memorial Hospital, on Tuesday.

The Chipping Norton Health Park will serve more than 14,000 patients and is being jointly funded by the town’s White House and West Street surgeries which will both be moving into the new development when it is complete.

Both surgeries decided on the move after struggling with good access for the disabled, shortage of consulting and administration space and cramped car parks.

Senior partner of White House Surgery Dr David Edwards said the centre also had the potential to become a major training site for nurses in general practices.

He said: “Student nurses and trainee healthcare assistants in Oxfordshire will be able to come to us for experience in a practice – which is something that has not really been catered for in the county previously.

“It is important they have face to face contact with patients at practices.

“You could say it might become the Chipping Norton Health University – though that might sound a bit grandiose.

“We are hoping that this will become a primary care centre that will be better for patients and staff.”

The new site will feature three floors and the two surgeries will have 18 consulting rooms, 16 clinical rooms, a pharmacy and a 64 space car park.

Mayor Mike Tysoe said that a modern update for the town’s healthcare was a good sign.

He said: “I am not an expert on these plans, but I am sure the medical profession and therefore the rest of the community will benefit.

“And if there are new cutting edge facilities, then that can only be a good thing for the town.”

The design is also eco-friendly and buidlers claim it will be faithful to local architecture.

Both surgeries aim to relocate from their individual premises in the centre of town to the new site by January 2015. They will remain operating separately at the new site and Dr Edwards remained tight-lipped about possible discussions on a future merger.

He told the Oxford Mail: “The way things are going does mean more surgeries are co-operating with each other.

“There are aspects that will merge, such as supply purchases, electrical bills and cleaning staff.

“That makes sense, but nothing else is for certain yet.”