WORK on a new health centre has been suspended and patients moved due to fears about asbestos and exposure to noise and dust.

St Luke’s Surgery, Pantile Avenue, Southend, has been operating out of temporary buildings for nine years and was due to become part of the nearby rehabilitation unit called Cumberlege Intermediate Care Centre.

The aim was to to create an integrated care facility but after building work began it is understood asbestos was found and other problems have also emerged.

The work, which began in June, had been taking place while patients remained at the care centre but this work has not been suspended over “patient safety concerns”.

If alternative accommodation is not found for the patients the project could lose £1.5million in NHS funding, which is due to expire in February next year if not used.

The trust accepted concerns had been raised but denied any patients have been put in danger.

Cathy Gritzner, interim accountable officer for NHS Southend clinical commissioning group, said: “We can confirm that at no point during recently completed works has asbestos come into the patient or staff spaces.

“Work has been underway for some months to prepare for the construction of a permanent building to house St Luke’s GP Practice at Cumberlege Lodge.

“Part of this work would have included the installation of fire doors that would have created severe exposure to noise and dust in the building.

“Another part of the work was the removal of asbestos in the roof.

“Despite efforts to limit the impact on the patients residing within the CICC, it has become evident that there is a risk that planned and future building works could pose an impact on staff, patients and their safety.

“In light of these concerns, the NHS is working with a number of key partners to secure a quick solution that will ensure patients in the rehabilitation unit are safely relocated as quickly as possible, to avoid any delays in the development of a building for the registered patients of St Luke’s GP practice.”

Patients and staff at the care centre are being moved to the Maple Ward at Rochford Hospital.

The report states: “If the opportunity to relocate CICC to Maple Ward is not taken, the money to fund the St Luke’s primary care development - £1.5 million funding from NHS England - will be lost and St Luke’s Primary Care Centre will not be developed as planned.”

The move to Rochford will be made possible after beds on Maple Ward are transferred to the Meadowview Ward at Thurrock Hospital.

That will follow a move of patients on the Thurrock ward to a ward in Basildon.