Leighton Buzzard healthcare plans don’t meet patients’ needs say councillors

Councillors want meeting with new minister over healthcare plans
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Council leaders in Leighton Linslade are appealing to the new Health Secretary and Central Bedfordshire Council for more support in meeting the health needs of the town.

At a meeting of the Leighton Linslade Health Services working party, councillors expressed fears that proposals from the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care Board (BLMK ICB) did not go far enough in meeting the demands of patients.

Although welcoming the progress with developing an outline business care for additional healthcare in the town, the working party expressed concern that the wishes of residents might not be met.

The council want more support to find funding for ambitious health plansThe council want more support to find funding for ambitious health plans
The council want more support to find funding for ambitious health plans

Committee chairman Cllr Steve Owen said the committee and patient participation groups had held a meeting with Neil O'Brien, the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Primary Care and Public Health in July. He said the minister told the group he would urge the ICB to be flexible with its revenue and capital budgets to fund new facilities in the town and he would be talking to NHS England about funding.

Speaking after the health services meeting, he said: "We will be pressing the new Health Minister Victoria Atkins, and we want an online meeting with her. We now know who can press the button to give our town what it needs.”

A patient survey led by the town’s three GP Practice Patient Participation Groups in March-April of this year saw 5,393 responses. Asked which NHS services they would like to see provided locally, a huge 82.5% of survey respondents asked for an urgent treatment centre or minor injuries unit. This was closely followed by a wish for walk-in phlebotomy (77%), x-rays (73.6%), ultrasound (71.6%) and a range of other services including an eye clinic. Patients typically travelled some distance for hospital or clinic appointments and difficulties cited included transport problems, distance, inconvenience and ill health.

95% of survey respondents felt that there were insufficient GP services in the town for its growing population. On being asked for a preferred location for additional local medical facilities, over half of those answering the question stated a preference for a town centre site. Desirable attributes for a location included good public transport, sufficient car parking, easy access and walkable from the town centre.

The working party concluded that apparent BLMK ICB plans for a limited-cost provision to the east of the town would not meet the requirements outlined by patients in the survey.

In particular, it was agreed to continue to press for a centrally located health hub/urgent treatment centre as well as a new GP surgery to the east of the town. The Town Council has written to both the Leader of Central Bedfordshire Council and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to urge their support in meeting patient needs in Leighton-Linslade.

BLMK ICB met with campaign groups and CBC at a meeting earlier this month and their latest update is due at the beginning of December.

A ICB spokesperson 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 newsletter.”