Pushing for better care, locally

We know how important access to local health care is to our residents. Central Bedfordshire has a growing population and it is imperative that the provision of health services grows at a similar rate.

Planning healthcare provision both in the community and in hospitals is the responsibility of the NHS. 

Realising the need for better resourced primary care, Central Bedfordshire Council agreed a joint ambition with the local health service (CCG now replaced by the ICB) to build five health hubs across our area. Integrated Health and Care Hubs can include primary care services such as GPs, and also other services that need you to attend hospital.  There might also be pharmacy, physiotheraphy and social services, resulting in better joined up care for residents locally and also a reduction in the pressure on hospitals.  

The Council is building the first hub at Grove View in Dunstable which is due to open this Spring.  We have aspirations to build more hubs across our district including Leighton Buzzard, Houghton Regis, Biggleswade and West Central Bedfordshire. Discussions about Biggleswade were well advanced but have recently made little progress.

The Council can help construct the hubs but only the NHS can provide the GPs and other medical staff.  It was therefore very disappointing to hear that the local NHS (the Integrated Care Board) has not allocated any of it primary care estates budget to the hubs, although the ICB says they will look to see if any alternative funding streams might be available. 

We will continue to lobby the ICB, NHS England, MPs and Ministers to highlight the immediate need for additional primary care facilities in our area.

Our first Integrated Health and Care Hub

I recently passed by the site of the new Integrated Health and Care Hub that is being built right in the heart of Dunstable, there’s not much to see there at the moment – just some hoarding and the sound of building work. The pictures show what it looks like now and what it will look like when it’s complete – quite a transformation.

I was minded, to think about all the unseen hard work that goes into a project like this before a spade even touches the ground.

It is often the case that we know something is not working but finding the solution as to how to fix it can be exceptionally daunting in scale. Ten years ago, with an ageing and, growing population we could see the challenges facing the health and care systems were unprecedented with local hospitals under significant strain, especially during the winter months when hospitals can be overwhelmed. So, along with our NHS partners we started on a journey to find ways to do things differently so we could provide an alternative to hospital attendance and admissions and to join up our community and health care services so that people could access a range of services under one roof and closer to where people live.

Together we created a transformational vision to change the way our residents receive health and care services with an ambition to eventually build five hubs across Central Bedfordshire. Dunstable is the first, but we hope to build similar in Biggleswade, Leighton Buzzard, Houghton Regis and somewhere in west Mid Beds too.

The challenge seemed enormous at the time, projects of this scale are immense but through hard work, coordination and collaboration by the many partners involved this vision is starting to come to life. I feel an enormous sense of pride that we are at the start of something truly ground-breaking.  

I am really excited by the prospect of how the first hub will not only improve the patient experience but also has the potential to become the centre of a new community located at the heart of Dunstable. The Dunstable hub also includes 94 new apartments, for the over 55s which will offer a place for people to meet up for a coffee alongside accessing health care services.

I will be popping by on a regular basis to see how the site is progressing.