A new £200 million medical centre is to bring 2,000 jobs to the West Midlands and cement the region’s position as the national centre for defence medicine.
The Ministry of Defence has announced plans for a new base providing accommodation for military staff and recruits at Whittington Barracks, in Lichfield, Staffordshire
It follows the decision earlier this month to build a new military hospital ward for injured soldiers at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, Edgbaston, as part of a new £545 million superhospital.
Trainees, medics and managers from around the country will relocate to the West Midlands once the new base opens in 2010.
Whittington will provide high quality living accommodation, offices and training facilities, the Ministry of Defence said.
The Queen Elizabeth and Selly Oak Hospital, where soldiers injured in Iraq or Afghanistan are currently treated, already house the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, which is a dedicated training centre for defence medics and a centre for medical research.
The centre works closely with the University of Birmingham and Birmingham City University.
The latest announcement confirms the West Midlands as the head of Britain’s defence medicine industry and Ministers said it would also help fulfil the Government’s objective of moving jobs out of London and South East.
Around 200 staff will move from London, Gosport in Hampshire, and Halton in Cheshire to Lichfield in 2010.
It is expected that 2,000 military and civilian staff will eventually work at the barracks when the project is completed in 2014.
Defence Minister Derek Twigg said: “This decision confirms that the West Midlands will be the central focus of the defence medical services.
“We shall build on the successes of the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine and our existing partnerships with the University Hospital Birmingham Foundation Trust and Birmingham City University.
“Lichfield is within easy travelling distance of central Birmingham, meaning we can take advantage of the benefits of proximity of clinical facilities, medical research and training. The range of facilities in the area will enhance our ability to deliver medical support for our forces both at home and overseas on operations.”
Liam Byrne, the Minister for the West Midlands, announced proposals in March to turn the West Midlands into the capital of Britain’s health industry.
He revealed plans for three Academic Health Science Centres in the region, bringing universities and hospitals together to provide training and attract investment.
The aim is to create new skilled jobs in the region which will replace vanishing posts in the traditional manufacturing sector, but built on the region’s traditional strengths in manufacturing and engineering.
The global market in medical devices such as surgical instruments, laboratory and diagnostic equipment, pacemakers and high technology scanners is expected to be worth £150 billion by 2011.
The military wing at the Queen Elizabeth will have up to 36 beds, a gym, physiotherapy facilities and a day room where families, patients and consultants can meet.
It may be used for civilian patients too, but only in times of exceptional demand. Beds will be arranged in single en suite rooms or four-bed rooms.
The announcement was welcomed by Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant (Con). He said: “This is the culmination of a long hard struggle to secure the future of Whittington Barrack which, at one stage, looked as if it would be sold off for building land.
“But this announcement is excellent news which means that the project will mean that over 1,100 Defence Medical Services personnel will be based at Lichfield providing a major boost to local businesses.”