Plans are finally afoot to bring additional healthcare services to the Leighton-Linslade after years of campaigning.
Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) is exploring the feasibility of developing an Integrated Health and Care Hub in Leighton Buzzard, which could provide a range of services from specialist GPs and nurses to diagnostics and day procedures – and reduce the need to travel to hospital.
The Hub is being mooted as part of the council’s BLMK Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STP), with the STP divided into ‘priority areas’, the hubs categorised under Priority 3 - ‘primary, community and social care’, and other target towns including Dunstable, Biggleswade, and Ampthill/Flitwick.
Richard Carr, chief executive of Central Bedfordshire Council, said: “The need for partnership working between health and council services, including care services, is vital, especially considering the challenges we are facing today.
“That is why we are in advanced planning for two integrated health and care hubs (Dunstable and Biggleswade) and are exploring the feasibility of creating more – including in Leighton Buzzard.”
Indeed, recognising the need for additional health care facilities in the town, a report going before Central Bedfordshire Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board onJanuary 24 states: “These Hubs would prevent the need for people, especially frail older people, to make avoidable journeys to hospitals and would make important difference in care outcomes, quality and experience for frail older people and those with long term conditions.
“Only those patients requiring the use of highly specialist diagnostic equipment or acute hospital facilities would need to be transported out of their local areas, thus freeing up the ambulance services to focus on those with very acute needs.
“Each locality Hub will provide local access to a range of general, medical and nursing, therapy, specialist and social care services with supporting information and advice systems.
”Within each locality there will be an integrated multidisciplinary approach, with ‘one team’ working across organisational boundaries.”
Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (BCCG) along with the council have recently launched an options appraisal to understand the potential for the Hub in Leighton Buzzard and what kind of services may be provided there, its location and facilities depending on the outcome.
At the moment, however, the report from the Health and Wellbeing board states that the proposed model for the Hub should include: an enhanced primary care/medical centre, specialist GPs and specialist nurses, geriatricians, therapists, social care professionals with community and voluntary services, diagnostics and day procedures, and plans to build extra care homes.
The report, recognising the increasing population of the town, said: “An options appraisal and strategic case document will commence in February.
“This scoping work will explore the potential options for developing a Hub for the Leighton Buzzard area, which over the next few years will see significant housing expansion and demand for health and care services, as a result of the 6,000 homes planned between 2011 and 2026, together with a further outline planning permission for an additional 2,500 homes and 55 retirement flats.
“Currently, the majority of the population utilise Luton and Dunstable Hospital, Milton Keynes Hospital and Bucks Hospital Trust (formerly Stoke Mandeville).
“Failure to reconfigure health and care services in anticipation of demand will put significant pressure on already vulnerable hospital services and fundamentally undermine the quality of care provision.”
The council’s capital programme for the ‘Integrated Health and Care Hub’ in Leighton Buzzard states that it will spend £1,000 in 2018-2019.
A Central Bedfordshire Council spokesman said: “The £1,000 was allocated as a placeholder to show the council’s commitment to supporting the development of the Integrated Health and Care Hubs across Central Bedfordshire.
“The scoping work, due to start around the middle of February, has been funded separately by the One Public Estate programme (a national programme delivered in partnership by the Local Government Association and the Cabinet Office Government Property Unit).
“The hub is part of our vision to deliver care closer to home for Central Bedfordshire residents and forms part of the STP’s plan for out-of-hospital services.”
Monitoring the hubs and making sure that they run smoothly would be HealthWatch Central Bedfordshire, a charity which helps patients and carers voice their feedback about health services.
Diana Blackmun, chief executive officer, said: “Healthwatch Central Bedfordshire, along with other local Healthwatch will, as soon as the Hubs are operational, talk to people about their experiences and whether they feel that the Hubs are ‘bringing care closer to home’ in the way they are intended to do - for example, avoiding hospitalvisits or travel to sites outside of their area.
“Information and intelligence gathered will then be fed back to the STP partner organisations to influence change (if it is needed).
“Healthwatch Central Bedfordshire has a place on the local Authorities Health & Wellbeing Board, the BCCG’s Governing Body, the Joint Safeguarding Board and other Committees and Localities Boards across Bedfordshire.
“We use our place on these Boards to influence decisions made and to hold providers and commissioners of Central Bedfordshire to account on behalf of the public.”
The CBC Health and Wellbeing Board report recognises the need for change, as it acknowledges: “Currently, the provision of health and social care across Central Bedfordshire is fragmented, and of variable quality, with uneven access to good care and the supporting range of health and social care options available to people.”
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