Plea for greater urgency in planning of Leighton-Linslade health hub

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'It's the only town of its size in the UK without even a local minor injuries unit'

"A crying need" exists for healthcare and more GP appointments in Leighton Buzzard and Linslade, according to a local councillor.

A motion was presented to Central Bedfordshire Council on Thursday requesting its executive injects greater urgency into the planning of the Leighton-Linslade health hub.

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The council's health and wellbeing board recently received a progress report from CBC and NHS officers putting the town's health hub at the bottom of its priority list, explained the motion.

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"No firm plan exists for the delivery of this hub or for identifying a funding stream.

"And no tangible progress has been made since concerns were raised by Leighton-Linslade representatives in August 2019.

"It's the only town of its size in the UK without even a local minor injuries unit."

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Independent Linslade councillor Victoria Harvey suggested there was no attempt to jump the queue, saying: "I'm well aware other areas desperately need healthcare.

"I and colleagues on Leighton-Linslade Town Council are only too aware of the constraints and difficulties nationally and locally. We've set up a health sub-committee.

"The primary care network is keen to engage. All we want to do is seriously talk about the details of the healthcare needs of the town and work towards solutions."

She told the council the town's three surgeries have "entirely different" business models.

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"One's just invested in expanding the surgery, but needs more space," she said. "It might want to rent space from somewhere else.

"Others might want to move. We need to examine this. But we've not been given the chance.

"The other big difference to Dunstable is that it's relatively close to a hospital with an accident and emergency department, but Leighton Buzzard is up to 14 miles away from one.

"As well as the crying need for healthcare and for extra GP's appointments, there are also the other services we've been told will be so marvellous to take pressure off GPs, such as physiotherapists, more pharmacists and social prescribing.

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"This is important to help with the issues of increasing loneliness, isolation and the mental health issues which have come out of the pandemic.

"There are community groups which can help elderly people get involved and they're really keen to in Leighton Buzzard, but we're really lacking venues and facilities.

"We've a real potential for a Bromley-by-Bow model," she added. "But you can't get people to proactively help unless you give them some sense of a date.

"We're asking for help in identifying funding streams. It doesn't have to be CBC's capital budget.

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"Surely it makes sense to look at a location in the town centre which can be reached sustainably by all."

Seconding the motion, Liberal Democrat Linslade councillor Peter Snelling said: "Councillor Harvey has set out the concerns of the residents we're elected to represent.

"It's a community which is expanding day-by-day as 2,500-odd houses in the eastern development of the town are completed and sold.

"That growth and the significant development over the past 15 years which preceded it has been accompanied by almost no growth in medical provisions in the town.

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"In this time, we've seen the closure of a GP facility in Linslade. The original plans for the eastern development included land set aside for a fourth GP practice.

"In its supposed wisdom, the BLMK Clinical Commissioning Group has determined that shouldn't be funded. So what our residents seek isn't without clear justification.

"This motion doesn't seek to move our town up the priority list. We've no interest in setting off one town against another in competing for scarce funding.

"We want the CCG and this council to engage with us in the town council in a debate about what is required, where it should be located and produce a realistic timetable of when that might be achieved."

Conservative Linslade councillor Gordon Perham said: "This motion's clearly a matter for the executive. I'm going to send it straight there for its input."