Campaign for health hub in Leighton Buzzard vows to continue until 'evidence of real action' seen

Pressure for health and social care hub in Leighton Buzzard area set to grow until clear evidence of action visible, meeting warned v.1

By Euan Duncan, Local Democracy Reporter
Tuesday, 19th July 2022, 12:38 pm

A campaign to speed up the delivery of a health and social care hub for the Leighton Buzzard area will continue until “evidence of real action” is visible, a meeting heard.

The slow pace of progress prompted a motion to Central Bedfordshire Council towards the end of last year, which was rejected “with regret” by its executive.

It referred to Leighton-Linslade as “the only town of its size in the UK without even a local minor injuries unit”.

Stethoscope on laptop keyboard in doctor surgery with blood pressure monitor

An update on the hub programme was presented to CBC’s health and wellbeing board.

A separate report from Leighton-Linslade Town Council called for the Leighton Buzzard hub to be “a top priority” and for the delivery of the fourth GP surgery “as a matter of urgency”.

Town councillor Steve Owen suggested the 50,000 patients of the three local surgeries could avoid spending £1m annually on visits to hospitals, if there was a Leighton-Linslade hub.

“The BLMK Clinical Commissioning Group has been writing to CBC planning requesting Section 106 (developer) contributions since 2017 for a hub,” he said. “Where is that money?

“The 50,000 Leighton-Linslade population is paying around £130m in its taxes for NHS services. Quite a good slice of that money is sent back to the CCG for allocation of services (locally).”

Executive lead for BLMK integrated care system (ICS) Felicity Cox replied: “We ask for Section 106 money when housing is built, but it’s never been enough to fund new surgery or hub.”

Distribution is based on need and premises available in those areas, she added.

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Representing the patient participation groups of Leighton Buzzard Edith Griffith told the board: “Our three surgeries are swamped, with 53,000 patients and most routine clinic referrals are spread far and wide.

“Electronic records aren’t well shared,” she said. “We need a creative and holistic central health hub more than most. Yet we’re fifth of five on your list.”

Ms Cox explained: “For Central Bedfordshire, there’s the integrated urgent care service provided by 111, the clinical advisory service and GP out-of-hours services.

“We recognise access isn’t perfect. Attracting GPs to the area is a long-term process. We’re working hard to support their recruitment and retention, as well as to bring in the multidisciplinary workforce they can offer.”

ICS chief medical director Dr Sarah Whiteman agreed, saying: “We prioritise resources across Central Bedfordshire. More people are retiring.

“Estate is an issue across the patch. Although Leighton-Linslade is cramped, it’s worse in other places.”

Liberal Democrat Linslade councillor Peter Snelling said: “There’s no evidence presented to this committee that funding is being actively sought.

“If the executive hadn’t agreed to use the new homes bonus for inflation protection for highways, there could have been £20m available towards the creation of health hubs in Leighton-Linslade and Houghton Regis.

“This will be a major issue at the local elections in ten months’ time. It’ll come back again and again until there’s some evidence of real action.”

The board agreed to a stock take report from officers at its next meeting about challenges in different parts of Central Bedfordshire.