Need for Leighton Buzzard health hub recognised, but currently it's at the back of the rollout queue

'Getting the capital funding quickly or a developer wanting to work with us might shift the timeline for delivery'

By Euan Duncan
Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 3:10 pm
Updated Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 3:36 pm

Leighton Buzzard is at the back of the queue for an integrated health and social care hub under the current rollout plans.

Approval for the first of five planned hubs in Central Bedfordshire has been labelled “a big step forward”, in the absence of a hospital within the local authority’s boundaries.

Work on the Dunstable hub is due to start next month, after approval for the building contract from Central Bedfordshire Council’s executive.

Work on the Dunstable Health Hub is expected to begin next month

“It’s been crucial to get Chiltern Vale hub over the line to show we can achieve this together,” CBC’s director of social care, health and housing Julie Ogley told its health and wellbeing board.

“This is a collaboration across the council and its health partners,” she said. “If local circumstances change as we progress, we can be flexible. There’s a big commitment from East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT), with the Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Cambridge Community Services also very involved.

“It’s a big step forward the executive took on Tuesday (Apr 13). I’m hoping the next four will be a lot easier. We don’t have a hospital in our boundaries and we’re not likely to get one. But what we want is that local access, while all the time techniques, treatment and care are changing. Getting the number of hubs we think we require across Central Bedfordshire is really important.”

The board was being updated on progress over the four remaining hubs.

ELFT chief executive Paul Calaminus said: “In an age when NHS capital is so constrained, it’s delightful to work with a local authority which is prepared to help us build an effective structure for health and social care because it’s not happening everywhere.”

Capital support is being set aside for the Leighton Buzzard and West Mid Bedfordshire hubs, according to CBC’s head of partnership and performance Patricia Coker.

“After Biggleswade and the Mid West Beds hubs, technically it will be Houghton Regis next,” she told the board.

“The need for one in Leighton Buzzard is also recognised,” she said. “Around 6,000 homes are planned there for 2026, with additional planning permission for 2,500 properties.

“In Leighton Buzzard, the preferred site is land east of Vandyke Road. This is covenanted land held by the Secretary of State for the town community.

“We’re liaising with the Department of Health to see how we can get that signed back to Central Bedfordshire. If we get that land, we can start talking with developers about the hub programme. Getting the capital funding quickly or a developer wanting to work with us might shift the timeline for delivery.”

Conservative Leighton Buzzard South councillor Amanda Dodwell described the Dunstable hub as looking “absolutely fantastic” and wondered if everyone across Central Bedfordshire would receive equal provision.

“I want to tell residents ‘Yes, there’s a virtual hub, doctors are working closely together and we’re getting the same level of services, although we haven’t got the physical hub yet’,” she explained.

Ms Coker replied: “The principle of joint working is very alive in Leighton Buzzard. We’ve got strong social prescribing and community wellbeing champions in the town helping the population.”

ELFT’s associate medical director primary care Kate Corlett said: “ELFT runs one of the practices in Leighton Buzzard and it gives us a chance to work closely with the primary care network. We’re also running a quality improvement project around integration, which allows us to work with CBC and the other practices in Leighton Buzzard.”