£37million needed to meet area’s rising demand for mental health services

Bedford Health Village
Bedford Health Village

A health organisation intends to explore every funding source available to proceed with its shake-up of mental health services in Bedfordshire.

Investment of around £37m is planned across the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes integrated care system (ICS) by 2023/24 to meet rising demand locally.

Service provider East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT) hopes to be part of a national new hospitals programme, according to a report to Luton Borough Council’s scrutiny health and social care review group.

This was in response to a Department of Health and Social Care call for expressions of interest around eight hospitals to be built nationally, said the report. The announcement of successful projects has been delayed.

ELFT intends to return inpatient mental health services to Bedford, while around £10m would be spent improving the Luton Centre for Mental Health, next to the Luton and Dunstable Hospital.

A site master plan for the £60m new premises at Bedford Health Village is due to be completed around now, ELFT deputy director of integrated care Robin Campbell told the group.

The trust and BLMK integrated care board (ICB) have been doing preparatory work during the past 12 months, before presenting a business case, he explained.

“An architectural design team has updated studies of the Bedford site, including costs. We’ve commissioned work with BLMK ICB and Bedfordshire Hospitals Trust to develop the master plan.

“The key principle of the clinical strategy model is meeting the changing needs of the population we serve and ensuring the highest quality possible recovery environment for service users.

“The new Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) tier four general units evergreen wards build and mobilisation is nearing completion. We aim to open that ward in 2023.

“The modernisation of mental health services in Luton and the rest of Bedfordshire will build on that programme for CAMHS. We’re looking to expand those general adolescent unit beds, as well as building a psychiatric intensive care unit,” he added.

“We’re required to confirm capital development expenditure limits in place before we move to the next steps, including the finalisation of our pre-consultation business case, which we’ll bring back to this committee for approval.”

Liberal Democrat Stopsley Cllr Richard Underwood, who chairs the group, asked what the alternatives are if the government money fails to materialise.

Mr Campbell replied: “There are a range of options for funding. What you need as a minimum is the capital approval. You require that permission to spend the capital.

“It’s a challenge in agreeing that process with NHS England. The other half is: ‘where does that funding come from?’

“A possibility is the new hospital development programme. We would look to explore other options with partners which could include redevelopment of ELFT trust estate or other NHS England pots of funding.

“The critical thing is to ensure we’re ready with our plan and the detailed schemes, so when money becomes available we’re prepared as a system to apply for that. We’ll be exploring every option available to us.”

By Euan Duncan
Local Democracy Reporter