The Olympic polyclinic has been touted as the most “tangible piece of legacy” for the future after the Games.
Located in the Athletes’ Village in the Olympic Park in Stratford, the state-of-the-art building will provide up to 22,200 Olympic and Paralympic athletes and team officials with access to 24-hour healthcare.
The core team made up of 10 staff from the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), 500 volunteers and 80 on-call specialists will be tasked with fulfilling the promise made to the International Olympic Committee back in February 2005, in which they claimed “there will be no effect on the provision of healthcare to the general population through the NHS from the Games”.
Dr Richard Budgett, LOCOG’s Chief Medical Officer, confirmed the polyclinic will allow medical staff to deal with the “vast majority” of clinical problems they will be presented with.
“Athletes can come into the polyclinic and be confident they will get the investigations and expert opinion they need in order to perform,” he says.
While the NHS footed the bill for the construction of the polyclinic – to the tune of £17m – the cost of the community area (£6m) and expense of fitting the service out with the latest medical equipment was covered by the Olympic Delivering Authority (ODA) and LOCOG’s privately-funded £2bn budget respectively. It is not known how much of LOCOG’s £2bn budget was spent on equipment.
While the building is vast and expansive, clinicians from all specialties will be expected to move between floors to join consultations and offer second opinions where appropriate.
Dr David Whittington, Primary Care Lead for the Olympic Family, said thanks to the logistics of being in such close proximity to so many medical staff there will be no need for a formal referral service.
Communication between clinicians has been proritised so highly that volunteers for the polyclinic have in fact been chosen – in part – on the basis of how well they work with others. Dr Whittington says there is no room for being “precious” during gamestime.
“The biggest challenge would have been dealing with people that were a bit precious about their area and weren’t able to muck in but people have been pre-selected for that,” he says.
“People really have got to be able to get down on their hands and knees, roll up their sleeves and work.”
Owing to the need for speed when it comes to caring for the Olympic and Paralympic athletes, no other general practice or walk-in staff will have ever had as much access to on-site investigative equipment as the primary care staff will at the polyclinic. Blood tests will be ready within ten minutes and physiotherapy can done almost immediately for athletes as well as non-athletes.
The rota devised by Dr Whittington and his colleagues means the primary care team’s minimum staffing capacity will be one GP and one primary care nurse, and maximum capacity will be three GPs and three nurses at any one time.
There will no formal appointment structure at the facility and people will simply queue up to be seen. While clinicians have been mindful to create a fair system, it is said that athletes will “naturally be given priority” over others in the Olympic family.
Alwen Williams, Chief Executive of NHS East London and the City, confirmed the NHS will take over the running of the polyclinic to house NHS services tailored to meeting the needs of people living in East London post-Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The polyclinic is expected to re-open its doors once the building has been redesigned to meet local needs in May 2013 – coinciding with the moving in dates of the new occupants in the park’s East Village. The new NHS clinic will offer a full range of primary healthcare services such as a GP surgery, pharmacy service and dentist. Other health services currently being considered include outpatient activity, physiotherapy services, a children’s clinic and diagnostic facilities.
“The NHS is delighted to have been involved in the construction of the state-of-the-art and impressive facility,” she said.
“We hope a wide range of high quality innovative services will be provided here post Olympics for the benefit of our local people in this very deprived area of London.
“I am very confident this service will provide a really important and lasting part of the health legacy of London 2012.”
Polyclinic services will be offered at the Olympic and Paralympic Rowing Village in Egham, Surrey and the Olympic and Paralympic Sailing Village in Portland.