Central Bedfordshire Council will 'challenge' decision to scrap health hubs as councillors express 'dismay'

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Central Bedfordshire Council will not let a proposal to withdraw new health hubs stand without "as much challenge as possible", a meeting heard.

In an urgent question during the council's full meeting yesterday (January 12) councillor Ian Bond (Conservative, Biggleswade North) said he was "dismayed" at the apparent loss of the Biggleswade Health Hub due to a lack of NHS funding. Hubs for Leighton Buzzard, Houghton Regis and Ampthill/Flitwick have also been scrapped for now.

"Following the announcement that the Integrated Care Board, the ICB, does not intend developing any further health hubs across Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes area, other than the one nearing completion in Dunstable and possibly the one in Kempston," he said

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"I find this withdrawal unacceptable given the clear benefits to residents of the hub approach in concentrating many different health provisions in one location, which forms a core part of their success.

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"I do understand that local health provision is the responsibility of the ICB, but is there anything that can be done by the council to ask the ICB to reconsider this decision," he asked the council leader, councillor Wenham.

Councillor Richard Wenham (Conservative, Arlesey) said this decision impacts primary healthcare over the whole of the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes (BLMK) area.

"Monday afternoon BLMK Integrated Care Board posted an agenda on its website, at very short notice, for a meeting of the Primary Care Commissioning and Assurance Committee which met yesterday (Wednesday, January 11).

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"It was intended to approve the plan for future development of primary care facilities across the region.

"And whilst committing to funding of the shortly to be completed health hub in Dunstable, all other health hub projects in Central Bedfordshire, including Biggleswade, Leighton Buzzard, Houghton Regis and West Central Bedfordshire were deemed unaffordable on revenue grounds.

"[This is] about the ICB and NHS England and how it chooses to spend its money.

"This government has provided many tens of billions of pounds of additional funding in real terms.

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"It is vital that NHS England immediately provides additional primary care funding to BLMK Integrated Care Board to allow for the impact of growth, and also to address the lack of GPs within our area," he said.

Councillor Wenham added that the ICB board will meet on January 27 where it will be asked to "rubber stamp" the proposal from the Primary Care Commissioning and Assurance Committee.

"I'm sure that you will all join me in hoping that representatives of that meeting will not accept that report and will send it back for further discussion," he said.

"With reference to Biggleswade, it's particularly disappointing that this hub is not on the approved list.

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"The council has been in discussion over several years with many NHS stakeholders to commence this vital project.

"This council stands ready to resume discussions as soon as we can, not only on the Biggleswade hub, which in our view is near to fruition.

"But also for other health hubs across the area where the council may need to help provide funding in the form of capital and the NHS is able to rent those facilities.

"We will not sit idly by and let this decision go without as much challenge as possible," he said.