Mayor demands fair share as report reveals 48% shortfall in Bedford borough's GP space

Bedford mayor, Dave Hodgso
Bedford mayor, Dave Hodgso

Bedford’s Mayor has demanded a “fair share” of NHS resources after a report revealed that there is a 48 percent shortfall in GP surgery space across the borough.

Bedfordshire health chiefs appeared before Bedford Borough Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board on Wednesday where they revealed and were grilled over their 10-year strategy for primary care in the area.

The Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) report said: “The current primary care estate in the borough is estimated to be around 48 percent undersized. This gap in capacity is expected to widen with population growth.”

The CCG’s Draft Primary Care Estates Strategy put forward a number of schemes to rectify the shortfall and rejig services. This includes new ways of working for the borough’s 20 GP practices currently operating out of 28 buildings, which have a combined patient list of some 182,000 people.

Mayor Dave Hodgson was not impressed with what he heard.

“The plan looks at the late 2020s, towards the end of a 10-year plan,” said Mayor Dave. “The residents of Bedford borough deserve their fair share and they deserve it now not in a generation’s time.

“People need to know that you cannot short change the residents of Bedford borough and we will create a lot of noise and I will lead that lot of noise if I have to make sure we get our fair share. We are not at the moment and we deserve it now, not in 10 years’ time.”

The mayor asked: “Whose door do we have to knock on, kick down, shout at, scream at, threaten, to make sure our residents get an average primary care facility?” He later said the NHS should “get its finger out”.

Nikki Barnes, the CCG’s head of infrastructure and integration, said it was about looking at “every opportunity” to get the finances.

She reported that the CCG had won £6 million for Gilbert Hitchcock House and the CCG was working to get its various schemes up and ready for investment.

Nikki Barnes outlined 10 potential estates projects, some more advanced than others. But she warned that delivery of the schemes was dependent on getting the money from other sources.

The proposals include:

> Relocating three surgeries in the De Parys Medical Group to a hub at Gilbert Hitchcock House, in Kimbolton Road. The CCG is developing a business case, following a long delay in receiving £6million of funding.

> The ‘relocation’ of two surgeries in Bromham to a new hub in Biddenham. The board heard how the proposal is facing opposition from residents in Bromham. The CCG’s NIkki Barnes said she “appreciated the concerns of people of Bromham” but that “we need to balance that with the needs of 15,000 people” and consider what would benefit the “most number of patients.”

> The CCG has been advised that additional GP surgery space may be needed in the Harrold, Sharnbrook and Putnoe areas. But Nikki Barnes said at the moment capacity was good and it was “too early to say what it would look like”. But she said the potential need was a “marker in the sand and we won’t lose sight of it.”

> In Elstow, funding has been secured to look for potential sites for a primary care hub, which would mean the relocation of the three Kempston GP

practices.

> In Shortstown there have already been huge significant delays in delivering new facilities but the committee heard that the CCG was “confident of delivering later this year.”

> In Wixams, active discussions are taking place between the NHS, Bedford Borough Council, and Central Beds Council, and Nikki Barnes said they were looking at “achieving that in the next few years.”

The board also heard that new GP contracts are coming into place from July 1, requiring all GP surgeries to work together in four networks to provide services.

But councillors Louise Jackson and Wendy Rider said they had concerns about patients not being able to get appointments. They are worried that when the primary care networks are created, it will cause confusion.

Cllr Jackson, the council’s health and wellbeing portfolio holder, said: “What I hear from patients is that they are not able to access services. Even getting through the front door is an issue.”

And Cllr Rider, the portfolio holder for adult services, who is also on the patient list of the De Parys Medical Group said: ” I’ve just waited four weeks to get an appointment. It’s not working.”

The board resolved to keep the issues on its agenda for future meetings.