"We need them yesterday" - delays over Bedford health hubs blasted by mayor

A report said there had been minimal investment in primary care premises for over 10 years

By John Guinn, Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 20th May 2022, 2:00 pm

Delays over health hubs in Bedford borough were blasted at a meeting this week.

A report to the Rural Affairs Committee on Tuesday (May 17) said there had been minimal investment in primary care premises within Bedford Borough for over ten years, but there are now various projects in the pipeline.

But Bedford’s mayor Dave Hodgson said that health hubs were desperately needed, saying: “we need these delivered, and we need them delivered yesterday”.

Bedford's mayor Dave Hodgson blasted the delays

“One of the key projects that is under way at the moment is the North Bedford Hub,” said Nikki Barnes, BLMK’s head of system and CCG estate told the committee.

“This project is around relocating four De Parys Group surgery premises to the Bedford Health Village site, and that’s at quite an advanced stage of planning.

Kempston Hub is a key project that we hope to work very closely with the council on going forward.

“Biddenham is a proposal to relocate the two branch surgeries in Bromham through a new large purpose-built facility that will serve up to around 15,000 patients from Biddenham, Bromham, the surrounding villages, and the Poet’s area of town, and beyond, in a modern purpose-built facility.

“We’re very hopeful that we’ll be able to confirm the start date for the works within the next couple of months.

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Councillor Jonathan Abbott (LibDems, Oakley Ward) said: “You’ll talk about all these [projects] and there’s always ‘hopefully’ behind it.

“What are you actually doing to make these happen, because both myself and councillor Weir sit on the planning committee and we gave permission for this surgery in Biddenham must be a year ago now. And it doesn’t really appear to be any closer to fruition.

“We’ve got some big issues with access to GP surgeries and GP surgery facilities and all we’re hearing is ‘hopefully’.

“There’s nothing definite coming from you as to what you’re actually doing with regards to this, and it’s a bit concerning.”

Ms Barnes replied: “The reason I say ‘hopeful’ is because it’s dependent on parties outside of the CCG signing agreement policies, we’re not a signatory on that agreement for lease, so we’re relying on other partners.”

Bedford mayor, Dave Hodgson referred to the project dates given in a report at September’s health and wellbeing board.

That report gave an ‘indicative timescale’ for delivering Biddenham of 2021/22, the latest update gave a ‘Stage 4 – Mobilisation’ date of 2023.

The mayor added that Kempston was to be 2022/23 and it is now 2024, and Great Barford was 2023, and it’s now ‘to be confirmed’

“Since September we’ve drifted on most of these projects by a year, and I did ask several times in that meeting ‘were you sure about that delivery date?’ and gave the option to say ‘hopefully, under a good wind’,” he said.

“And you said ‘no, you were certain’.

“You’re saying ‘hopefully’, we need these delivered, and we need them delivered yesterday for Bedford borough.

“We need more GPs into the borough, because we are the sixth-worst in terms of number of the number of GPs we have.

“It’s not fair on them, it’s not fair on their staff and they haven’t got the prevision and we need that,” he said.

Ms Barnes replied: “As I said, we operate in a complex environment with primary care premises.”

The mayor said: “I know it’s complex, but other people manage and I don’t think it’s any less complex for them.”