Lack of agreement from Leighton Buzzard GP practices has stalled health hub project

Leighton Buzzard
Leighton Buzzard

Leighton Buzzard is down the pecking order for a new health hub because its GP practices have, as yet, been unable to fully back the move.

Nearby Dunstable’s new health hub could be in place by the end of 2021, as the town’s five GP practices agree the hub is the best way forward for future health provision.

A plea for Leighton Buzzard and Linslade to be given more priority in the roll-out of these facilities was made at a meeting of Central Bedfordshire Council’s social care, health and housing overview and scrutiny committee.

But the meeting hear that the four local GP practices have been unable to reach a similar agreement about joining a hub.

The hubs aim to provide extended GP access, clinics to support patients with long-term conditions, and minor injury and illness services.

They are designed to offer flexible and community-based forms of care to ease pressures on hospitals and medical centres.

Conservative Leighton Buzzard North councillor Ken Ferguson said: “It sounds like processes in Dunstable, the gateway to the south, are well advanced.

“The 50,000 or so people in Leighton Linslade and the villages, I assume, are going to occupy some thinking in the near future. That’s a major population centre, widely dispersed around oversubscribed GP services.

“And I would have hoped we would have had some sort of priority in your thinking.

“Very nice to hear that Dunstable, the gateway to the south is being looked after, but the rest of us need to be looked after as well.”

Conservative Dunstable Watling councillor Peter Hollick said: “I think if you read the papers it does say Leighton/Linslade, Houghton Regis and Biggleswade, as well.

“There is alot of movement going on in all the areas within Central Bedfordshire.”

Conservative Dunstable Central councillor Carole Hegley said: “We have to start somewhere, don’t we? Please appreciate there is a plan.

There is a commitment there and the fact it’s going out to public consultation is a real step in progress.

“We have to start somewhere and Leighton Buzzard is on the map.”

Councillor Ferguson replied: “I seem to have awakened the Dunstable mafia. I am delighted that the 50,000 people are on the map, alongside Dunstable.”

Conservative Heath and Reach councillor Mark Versallion said: “There is an options appraisal being done for Leighton Buzzard/Linslade.

“But the significant difference between the five Dunstable practices and the four in Leighton/Linslade is that the five in Dunstable agree that the GP surgeries should be merged into one hub. The Leighton Buzzard four do not.

“So maybe the public’s attention should be brought to that fact as to why there is less progress.”

Conservative Linslade councillor Gordon Perham said: “There’s no date though, which is a bit open ended, which is what we feared with the doctor’s surgeries.

“It’s a bit like Brexit. Is it coming or is it not? Then it’s whether they want to invest or they don’t want to invest.

“We get a lot of surgeries investing in their own things because they haven’t got a definite deadline, which they might be able to look forward to.

“They’re being selfish a bit by committing to their own thing because they haven’t got anything else to commit to, or so they think.

“All the time you’re not getting the hub done, everyone else is going off in their own direction building up what they’ve got.”

Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s locality business manager Nikki Barnes replied: “It’s their responsibility to make sure they manage those pressures in the meantime.

“We are helping our GP practices think of new ways of working more collaboratively with some of their neighbouring practices, which is happening in a number of places across Central Bedfordshire.”

Last month the LBO reported a tentative date of 2o23 for a health hub to be readyin Leighton Buzzard. Three locations were revealed to the town council’s partnership committee as potential sites for the hub: south of the High Street, south of Vandyke Road and the VOSA test station.