Health minister discusses 'range of health services' considered for Leighton Buzzard - but councillor rings alarm bell

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The Minister for primary care and public health attended a meeting to discuss potential health facilities in Leighton Buzzard - but one town councillor has "rung a warning bell" at the announcement.

Last Wednesday (March 8) Neil O’Brien MP held a meeting after legal advice received from NHS Property Services showed that the four acres of valuable land on Vandyke Road - owned by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care - could be used to expand healthcare within the town.

The meeting was attended by NHS Property Services, Bedfordshire Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care Board, Central Bedfordshire Council, and South West Bedfordshire MP Andrew Selous, who told that LBO that a "range of health services are being considered". However, Leighton-Linslade Town Councillor, Steve Owen (Barnabas ward), has cast a critical eye over the meeting results.

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Speaking after the meeting, Mr Selous said: “The ICB said that this is a once in a generation opportunity to improve significantly health facilities in Leighton Buzzard. The ICB will undertake an initial scoping exercise of the various health services that could be included on this site within the next four to six weeks, and I stressed that it will be extremely important to consult local people and in particular the patient participation groups of the GP surgeries in the town.

Andrew Selous MP (right) with Dr John Henderson, of Bassett Road Surgery. Image: Andrew Selous MP.Andrew Selous MP (right) with Dr John Henderson, of Bassett Road Surgery. Image: Andrew Selous MP.
Andrew Selous MP (right) with Dr John Henderson, of Bassett Road Surgery. Image: Andrew Selous MP.

"The Chief Financial Officer of the ICB has been tasked to undertake the initial work and NHS property services are likely to be the developers of the site and will work closely with Central Bedfordshire Council. I am absolutely delighted by this opportunity which has opened up to improve healthcare within the town."

However, Cllr Owen questioned whether the announcement "assumes some health new-build at the Vandyke Road land" or whether it would be sold and the proceeds used elsewhere.

The LBO asked Mr Selous about the location of the health facilities. He stated: "I don’t think decisions have been taken on this yet, and it depends on exactly which services are going to be provided. In addition to bringing new services into the town, it may be that some existing services relocate into more spacious and appropriate settings, thus freeing up existing health premises across the town for alternative uses.

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"The reason that I stressed the need for widespread consultation in particular with patient participation groups, is to look at exactly these issues in relation to both services and locations."

Meanwhile, although Cllr Owen welcomed "plusses of the announcement", including the "promised consultation by ICB", he raised several other concerns.

Cllr Owen claimed: "If sold, the four acres of Vandyke Road land would raise around £2.5m – but the building costs alone of a Health Hub are estimated at £20 million, and the two new surgeries around £5 million each. That’s £30 million excluding costs of land to put up the three buildings. Where is the missing £27.5 million plus coming from?"

Indeed, he also argued that the announcement made "no mention" of the Health Hub, which would need to be "centrally located"; how the running costs (staff salaries etc) for the hub and new GP surgeries would be funded; where revenue steams would be sourced; or of a timescale.