‘Overdue’ study into primary healthcare needs in Leighton Buzzard condemned as 'more dither and delay'

Study ‘lacks urgency’ says Patient Participation Group chair – who says ‘speed is imperative’
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The feasibility study for additional health services in Leighton has been condemned as ‘more dither and delay’.

The criticism comes after findings of the study, from NHS Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care Board (IBC), revealed a need for more primary health care services in Leighton.

Lib Dem leader for Leighton-Linslade South Cllr Shaun Roberts said: “What was the point of this study? This is just more dither and delay. We all know the town needs more health services, if the Conservative’s ICB actually listened to locals, they might realise the same.”

Stethoscope on laptop keyboard in doctor surgery with blood pressure monitorStethoscope on laptop keyboard in doctor surgery with blood pressure monitor
Stethoscope on laptop keyboard in doctor surgery with blood pressure monitor

The study identified two locations for additional facilities including the Clipstone Park development and land off Vandyke Road. Another two were also explored but deemed too small.

Cllr Roberts added the report suggested the sites were not easily deliverable, calling it ‘a failure of the Conservative Government’.

Lib Dem councillor for Leighton-Linslade West Steve Owen said: “We need to bring people across the town together. Patient groups, local residents, all political parties, the town council and Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) all need to take a combined voice and work together to deliver the health facilities the town so badly needs.”

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MP Andrew Selous, who has welcomed the findings, said he was continuing to push for the additional health facilities to be as ambitious as possible.

He added: “We need to explore additional capital contributions from CBC in terms of locating its own services within the new facility, and I call on local councillors to advocate for that. I am asking the Primary Care Minister to contact the ICB to make sure we maximise what the town can get and the Department of Health and Social Care will want to do that, given that it is its land and whose capital value is making the additional facilities possible.”

However, Edith Griffith, chair of the Basset Road Surgery Patient Participation Group (PPG), agreed the ‘overdue’ study lacked urgency in addressing challenges and the huge pressures on healthcare staff.

She told the Observer: “Speed is imperative in building permanent medical facilities, both primary and secondary – where practical – for the local population to both support their everyday and urgent healthcare needs locally, in line with national strategy.

“Also, to reduce the pressures on hospital departments – in particular A&E Urgent Care and the Ambulance Service. New and permanent medical facilities need to be large enough for future expansion, on bus routes and with car parks which can also house mobile screening units.

“We trust that we can fully rely upon the relatively new BLMK ICB and the brand new Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) to drive this urgent issue forward and at pace. They assure us that the will is there and we now need to see what they can produce together on the ground by working in partnership for and with Leighton Buzzard, Linslade and Villages’ patients.”

Residents have expressed their needs through a health survey carried out by the PPG which aims to inform and help prioritise the services needed.

In the meantime, she is urging the ICB to release existing consulting rooms and, where necessary, find a building to rent for interim services in the town centre.