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Just six weeks after planning permission was granted, construction work to build medical student accommodation and an academic teaching building at Tunbridge Wells Hospital has begun.

To mark the start of the development a groundbreaking ceremony was held at the hospital site earlier today (Thursday 5 August).

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust’s Chair David Highton and Chief Executive  Miles Scott were joined by Sir David Behan, Chair of Health Education England (HEE); Greg Clark, MP for Tunbridge Wells; Professor Chris Holland, Dean of Kent and Medway Medical School (KMMS), and Councillor Tom Dawlings, Leader of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.

The new state-of-the-art six storey building will provide teaching facilities and high-quality accommodation for 145 medical students and trainee doctors a year. The first intake of approximately 40 Kent and Medway Medical School (KMMS) students will arrive in September 2022 so they can undertake their clinical placement with the Trust in years three, four and five of their degree. Once fully established, it will place 120 additional medical students with MTW each year – a 315% increase in the total number of students the Trust currently takes.

Students need to live close to their clinical placement so they have direct access to a wide range of medical and surgical services to complete their studies. Living on site also removes the need for students to travel by car to and from the hospital for their course activities as they can access the hospital by foot.

David Highton, Chair of MTW, said: “It’s a credit to all those involved, that just six weeks after getting the go ahead for the student accommodation and academic teaching building, construction work has started.

“We are delighted to be working in partnership with Kent and Medway Medical School, whose students will benefit from these new facilities. This project is very much a part of our organisations shared vision to train and retain doctors in the county.

“The development is also part of a national commitment to increase the number of medical school places in the UK by at least 25% – around 1,500 – to expand the number of ‘home grown’ doctors, especially in areas like Kent where we have a significant shortage.”

Trust Chief Executive Miles Scott said: “By giving medical students an excellent experience while they are training, we hope to attract and retain a future generation of exceptional doctors who want to work locally to deliver outstanding care for our patients at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust.

“This project would not have been possible without the dedication and support of our MTW team and partner organisations. On behalf of the Trust I would like to thank Health Education England for their support, Kent and Medway Medical School, the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Deanery and Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.”

Sir David Behan, Chair of Health Education England (HEE), said: “In HEE we have the great privilege of working in partnership with NHS trusts and universities to develop the clinicians of the future; a future which, due to the advances of science and technology, will be very different to the past.

“I am delighted that the construction of the medical student accommodation and academic teaching building will play an important role enabling our future doctors to live and work in the community here in Tunbridge Wells and Maidstone because we know the majority of doctors work in the communities where they are trained and educated. This is such an important and exciting development. Congratulations to all who have made it possible. “

Professor Chris Holland, Dean of Kent and Medway Medical School (KMMS), said: “This is a landmark moment for MTW NHS Trust and is a real sign of their ongoing commitment to high quality medical education.

“Our first cohort of students will begin their hospital placements here and at other NHS hospitals in Kent and Medway from autumn 2022.  As part of the innovations in our course they will do longitudinal integrated placements across the region so will spend most of the year in one hospital trust so these facilities will be of huge benefit for them.”

MTW has set out to achieve a Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) rating of ‘Excellent’. BREEAM is a voluntary green building sustainability rating system for assessing the environmental performance of buildings. If achieved, it will place the building within the top 10% of new non-domestic buildings in the UK to receive the rating.

The ground floor of the building will house the academic space – a learning hub, private study, offices and toilets – as well as two six bedroom flats. Floors one to five will be entirely student accommodation made up of six, five or four bed flats, all of which will have a communal kitchen, dining and living area and an ensuite attached to each bedroom. In addition, eight wheelchair accessible flats will be provided – two on each floor – from the first to the fourth floors.

On the roof there will be solar panels and a green roof, a new meadow grass terraced bank will be created and the existing woodland walk will be extended. In addition, 74 bicycle spaces will also be provided on site.

More information about this development can be found in the frequently asked questions (FAQs) document which can be accessed here.