A pioneering digital medical practice, the first of its kind in the UK, will open in The Beacon this week. 

Digital First: The Beacon Practice is being opened by lead partners from Victoria Medical Centre (VMC), a merged practice of three GP surgeries in Eastbourne. 

By opening in a shopping centre, offering around 70% of its services online plus additional lifestyle options including NHS prescriptions for Tai Chi and access to a chef through the NHS to advise on healthy eating, the practice is the first of its kind to open in the UK. 

In addition to consulting rooms, a large area at the front of the practice will be used for exhibitions and interactive events that will be open to visitors to the shopping centre. 

Initially the surgery will open weekdays only from 8.30am until 6pm for patients of VMC, former patients of the Walk-In Centre at Eastbourne Railway Station that closed earlier this year, and university students, with the opportunity for anyone to use the services (if they are registered with the practice) being offered seven days a week next year. 

As well as GP and nursing services, the new centre will offer access to a variety of other services including community cardiology, life coaches, mental health practitioners and nutritionists. 

Around 1,500 university students are expected to register during Freshers’ Week giving them access to services they need such as meningitis jabs and even mental health support as they settle into life away from home for the first time. 

The team behind the opening of the surgery has also run the vaccination centre in The Beacon that has given over 40,000 Covid jabs since opening in December 2020. 

Lead GP for the practice, Dr Mark Gaffney, explained there were several factors which had led to the opening of the new premises in a shopping centre. 

One of the three surgeries to form the amalgamated Victoria Medical Centre was town centre-based practice – The Bolton Road surgery. 

Dr Gaffney said: “We always had a town centre practice so were looking to open a new facility in the same area. Then when it was decided that the walk-in centre at the railway station was to close, that gave us another reason to work with the Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group to explore opening in The Beacon. 

“We needed it to be a different offer in the town centre that would give greater access to a wider range of services. By opening the vaccination centre in The Beacon, it meant we could trial the experience of working in a shopping centre. 

“This is a really exciting development for us and Eastbourne. Not only can patients see GPs by coming into the surgery but they can access all our services online. 

“Anyone who needs support to access services online will be able to get advice and help from a team of on-site specialists so that our services are accessible to everyone.” 

James Roberts, director of The Beacon, said: “We are proud that we are now able to offer our shoppers a GP practice, making health services more accessible to local people. I believe the future of retail is to offer a wider variety of experiences for our customers and so this is a perfect fit for The Beacon.”