A new hospital in Aberdeen could be banned from using general anaesthetic in surgery, amid health and safety fears unconscious patients would be unable to flee a gas explosion.
TAC Healthcare has applied for planning permission to turn the former Wood Group building on Wellheads Place, Dyce, into a private medical clinic.
It is currently being used for private Covid testing – processing 4,000 samples each week – with a view to transitioning into occupational health clinics, diagnostics and physiotherapy.
Council officers have recommended the move is approved ahead of its planning committee meeting next week.
But they have warned a number of concessions will be required to quell concerns raised by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
These centre around the clinic’s neighbouring property, which is used by Calor Gas for storage of up to 198 tonnes of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).
HSE classifies the depot as a “major hazard site,” and the clinic is situated within the “inner zone” of impact if any emergency was to unfold.
It told council planners the proposals carry a “perceived increased risk” compared to the building’s current function as an office.
At the moment, as many as 325 people can work from the property at any one time.
As a clinic, this would decrease to around 130 staff and patients spread throughout each day.
But HSE said the increased likelihood of members of the public who are ill or less mobile using the site poses more risks than it would as office space.
The council papers say: “Because of age, infirmity or state of health, such occupants may be especially vulnerable to injury from hazardous events.
“Emergency action and evacuation may be very difficult.”
Additionally, HSE said it would likely oppose any applications at the site, regardless of their purpose or what may have been approved in the past, because of this hazard.
However, planners have recommended the application is approved at the June 17 meeting.
They feel the change of use would “not represent an increase” in the number of people at risk from a gas depot emergency.
The committee is being recommended to impose five conditions on the application.
One of these would restrict the activities on offer at the clinic, banning overnight stays and the use of general anaesthetics – as both could hamper patients’ ability to evacuate the building quickly.
Last month we revealed TAC Healthcare was preparing to invest £2 million in new equipment for the occupational health centre.
Clinical director Ken Park said it could see as many as 1,000 patients each week, potentially offering a “one-stop shop” from referral to diagnosis and treatment in one visit.
Further documents lodged as part of the planning process have outlined exactly which procedures could be carried out.
It estimates as many as 20,000 clinics could be held each year, covering face-to-face and virtual GP appointments, as well as hearing, eyesight and exercise checks.
It is preparing to carry out 10,000 tests annually – ranging from X-rays to MRIs – and around 1,000 minor procedures such as endoscopies and ingrown toenail treatments.
Phil Webb, chief executive of TAC Healthcare’s parent company C7 Health, said he was “clearly disappointed” by HSE’s stance.
“But we are delighted that the council’s planning department is supportive of the application and we are confident that the planning committee will also be supportive particularly given benefit to patients in Aberdeen and the north-east who are waiting for diagnostic treatments and minor procedures.
“While the conditions will restrict the number of people we are able to help, even being able to help tackle the significant diagnostics waiting list and provide minor procedures will be of benefit to many people.
“We felt it was better to proceed on this basis rather than delay the launch of our services.
“We will continue to engage with the council and planning team to provide a suitable facility to allow us to provider the full range of services for patients.”