GP surgeries in Bedford to be put under scrutiny microscope

Worries about the lack of a GP surgery at Wixams, and “overflowing” surgeries at neighbouring Kempston were raised at a meeting in Bedford.

Councillors at Bedford Borough Council will be putting GP services under the microscope as the NHS in Bedfordshire gears up for imminent changes to the way it organises primary care.

Family doctor

Family doctor

Conservative group leader Cllr Graeme Coombes (Wilshamstead) took the reins as chairman of the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Monday and made it clear he wanted to scrutinise local NHS chiefs over family doctor services.

“Wixams has had no GP in 10 years, and we have a lot of anticipated growth, a lot of planned development,” said Cllr Coombes, who represents Wixams as a part of his ward. “Despite the house building, there does not seem to be a plan to deliver additional services.

“My GP is in Ampthill and it is a 14 miles round-trip. I would like to have some form of report. I would like to have someone sit here and tell me how we are going to get GP services.”

And Cllr Kay Burley (Lab, Kempston Central & East Ward) added: “The Kempston surgeries are overflowing and we are next door to Wixams.”

The committee was putting together a long list of health items they would like to scrutinise over the next 12 months. They also had the chance to quiz chiefs from Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) about the NHS 10-year plan and how that might change local services.

The plan includes the introduction from next month (July) of Primary Care Networks, where groups of GP practices are invited to work together. The CCG is planning to consult with the public over the summer months.

Mike Thompson, the chief operating officer at the CCG, said Primary Care Networks were about GP surgeries collaborating to provide the right professional to the patient at the right time.

Instead of seeing a doctor, the patient might instead be directed to see another health professional. And the health teams would be encouraged to develop plans to improve the health of their communities.

Mr Thompson said: “Primary care is changing, we are constructing it as a network.”

On the future of the Putnoe Walk in Centre his said the health service would not be looking at it “in isolation” but as part of the “context of urgent care” which is part of a “wider conversation”.

“It is about the services, not the organisations in it,” he added.

“It is not just about seeing a GP,” he continued. “It’s about workforce planning, because at the moment the GPs do a lot of clinical administration and medicine reviews. We want to get others to think about it.”

Jacqueline Gray, Bedford Council’s senior officer and health policy adviser, said: “The NHS Plan is encouraging us not to get ill in the first place and helping to avoid crisis.”

But she added that while the plan has education and housing elements, and the social care element is missing pending a parliamentary green paper on the future, those aspects do not have any money allocated to them.