A new £17m hospital unit that promises to cut waiting times has been given the go-ahead - although building work has already begun at pace.

An orthopaedic elective hub and community diagnostic centre are currently being built at the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston despite planning permission yet to be granted by Great Yarmouth Borough Council (GYBC).

Health bosses say it will drastically reduce waits for treatment to just 18 weeks.

Currently, people are waiting 15 months to be seen on average - the hospital has the second longest wait times for routine treatments in the country.

Great Yarmouth Mercury: Modules for a new orthopaedic unit being delivered to the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston.Modules for a new orthopaedic unit being delivered to the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston. (Image: JPUH)

But the breaking of planning rules has left councillors frustrated.

Nigel Key, chief operating officer, explained that the James Paget Hospital Trust was forced to begin building work in order to meet the strict funding criteria for the project.

He said: "In order to adhere to the funding requirements we had to take this risk and start making groundworks."

Councillor Geoffrey Freeman highlighted that if smaller developers started building before an application was approved due to delays, they would likely be reprimanded. 

Great Yarmouth Mercury: Councillor Geoffrey FreemanCouncillor Geoffrey Freeman

Councillor Bernard Williamson added: "It is such a shame that they have not been given more time and have been pushed to start in this way."

However, despite these frustrations, GYBC members were excited that there has been investment in the James Paget facilities, which is also earmarked to get a new hospital site in the future. 

Mr Williamson described the region as being a healthcare "desert" but hoped these new facilities would help change this.

The centre will include two theatres for elective surgery, eight treatment rooms, six clinical consultation rooms and a waiting area, as well as staff rooms and offices.

When completed this summer, the hub will operate seven days a week and provide 1,400 extra theatre sessions per year.