Fears over ‘sticking plaster’ healthcare plans for Leighton Buzzard and Linslade

Campaigners fear plans for more services won’t go far enough
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Representatives of the local PPGs (Patient Participation Groups) and Health Provision Group, CBC (Central Bedfordshire Council) councillors, voluntary organisations and PCN (Primary Care Network) members attended a ‘Focus Meeting’ last week, hosted by BLMK ICB (Bedford, Luton, Milton Keynes Integrated Care Board) regarding an outline business case for increased health premises and services in the town.

It follows on from the PPG Patient Survey and the work done by the Health Provision Group on behalf of surgeries and patients.

Rose Gunter, of the Health Provision Group, said: “It is now clear that the ICB is planning one facility only and in the new developments on the east. The feeling was that this is better than nothing but much less than we had hoped for, or deserve. Disappointingly, apart from some expansion in Bassett Road Health Centre (with parking challenges and no current bus service to overcome), nothing is currently proposed by the ICB for the town centre or in line with the town council’s masterplan for land south of the High Street.”

Campaigners want more ambitious plans for healthcare in Leighton Buzzard and Linslade - stock pictureCampaigners want more ambitious plans for healthcare in Leighton Buzzard and Linslade - stock picture
Campaigners want more ambitious plans for healthcare in Leighton Buzzard and Linslade - stock picture

Ms Gunter said there was considerable strength of feeling and concern locally over the fast growing population and the high percentage of elderly residents, many of whom have considerable mobility and access difficulties.

She said: “It was a great disappointment that specific areas of concern raised in the 2023 Patient Survey e.g. urgent care centre to respond to minor accidents and increased local out-patient and diagnostics clinics are still not being addressed by the ICB.

“It became once again very apparent, and was pressed home to the ICB, that whilst a facility in the east for GP and primary services is necessary and to be welcomed, this town also desperately needs an accessible town centre medical facility and that the few extra interim rooms found in Bassett Road and elsewhere for consultation and treatment are not the long-term solution for our health needs. Participants repeated the, by now much-repeated request that, in order to meet the health needs of all residents now and into the future, the town requires an ambitious, comprehensive, long term vision with a creative and fully financed plan - not a continued ‘sticky plaster’ approach.

"Yet again, participants were left asking the question, “Why is it that Leighton Buzzard does not automatically receive sufficient, permanent and local healthcare via the ICB and CBC for its non-specialist and non-life-threatening needs and where is its fair share of funding going?” What if there had been no 4 acre plot to sell (which may or may not cover building costs) – where would that leave Leighton Buzzard which is clearly still not a priority to the BLMK decision-makers?!

“Those attending felt it was of considerable benefit to have a variety of representatives from local groups sharing and putting forward their views and are appreciative of this opportunity organised by the ICB to engage with the community, to once more hear its concerns and ideas and to progress these issues - urgently.”

A ICB spokesperson said the meeting had given the chance to discuss “affordable and sustainable” solutions to concerns raised by residents about access to health and care services.

They said: “The feedback from the meeting will inform the Outline Business Case that is considering additional services in the town. At this stage, no decisions have been made. We are reviewing feedback from residents and will continue to provide an update through our regular, six-weekly newsletters.”