THE first patients walked through the doors of Halton General Hospital’s new Cheshire and Merseyside Treatment Centre on Monday.

Staff said the unit was given the thumbs up from visitors as the first appointments took place.

The building had been empty for more than a year but will now be home to the trust’s orthopaedic services.

First patient Erika Highdale, a former care home manager from Helsby, visited the centre for a follow up appointment after shoulder surgery in March.

She said: “The centre looks really good and it’s nice to have a big centre like this close to home.

“It’s got the feel of a private hospital and the staff were really friendly and looked after me.

“I’ve got a friend who is having a hip operation in the autumn so her surgery is likely to be here and I know she’ll be looking forward to visiting.”

Around 30 patients came on the first day for new and follow up appointments with many undergoing x-rays so the doctors could quickly review them in one visit.

Surgery will begin at the centre in the autumn.

Staff marked the occasion with a special cake baked by Halton General catering staff with each patient getting a slice as they waited for their appointment.

The hospital’s free shuttle bus now drops off at the centre after it leaves Halton General on its journey to Warrington Hospital during clinic times.