The Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie and Health Minister Michael McGimpsey have officially opened a new £6m health and social care centre that could help transform an area of Londonderry's Waterside.
The new health facility, at Distillery Brae, will accommodate three medical practices serving a population of more than 25,000 patients. It will also include midwifery and district nursing, social services, community dentistry and other health and social care services.
The purpose built centre was developed on an underused site acquired by the Department for Social Development.
Speaking at the opening, Ms Ritchie said: "The new health and social care centre combines excellent design quality with the highest standard of patient care. The finished building not only provides a place for the delivery of health and social care services, but also creates a welcoming and reassuring environment when people need it most.
"This innovative multi-million pound centre will also be a major boost to the transformation of the Waterside, supporting local shops and businesses, reinforcing the infrastructure and bringing life back into the local area."
The Health Minister Mr McGimpsey said: "This centre embodies the fundamental aim of our health and social care policy - bringing services closer to home and providing as much care as possible in the community.
"It is a flagship development, built at the very heart of the community it serves, providing state-of-the-art facilities for health and social care.
"I never forget that GPs are independent contractors. I am delighted to see, in this centre, the very embodiment of how, in partnership together, we can provide real, tangible improvements in the delivery of quality health and social care services to patients.
"But this is something more than just a brand new health and social care centre. As a development driven by GPs, and supported by the Minister for Social Development, it is also a clear demonstration of what can be done when the whole public sector works together for the health and wellbeing of the people of Northern Ireland. By continuing to work together in this way we can ensure we bring better services to our community."
The Distillery site on which the centre was built was developed from an area of under-used land fronting onto Spencer Road and Duke Street. The Department for Social Development, through the North West Development Office, acquired the site for comprehensive development in 1998.
Following a development competition in 2000 no viable proposals were submitted and the Department re-advertised the site again in early 2002, attracting four submissions.
Braehead Developments, a consortium of GPs then based at the Waterside Health Centre, was chosen as the selected developer.
The three practices in the Waterside Health Centre are Riverfront Medical, Cityview Medical and Glendermott Medical.