Bedford Borough Mayor pledges to “eat his hat” if health hubs built on time

Mayor Dave
Mayor Dave Hodgson

Bedford’s Mayor said he will eat his hat if the Clinical Commissioning Group delivers on its promise to build all the borough’s new health hubs by 2024.

The Rural Affairs Committee (5 October) was discussing its Work Programme for 2021/2022 when the topic of health care came up.

Bedford Borough Mayor, Dave Hodgson, wondered if the committee would support the idea of the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group (BLMK CCG) attending the meeting to discuss its plans and how it will support rural communities.

“I’m really worried about the plan to have five [health] hubs in town which everybody will have to travel to,” he said.

“I raised Bromham and Biddenham with the CCG, they are removing the Bromham GP and the Biddenham one, and putting it in the middle so everyone has to drive to it.”

The mayor said that he knows of one rural GP surgery that is struggling to cope with the capacity it has and is worried that it might ‘sink’ when a new development of 500 homes is built.

“So I think putting pressure to say ‘how we are going to deliver with GPs appointment for our rural communities?’ is really important.

“Ideally without having to get on to a bus or driving all the way into town.”

Cllr Louise Jackson (Labour, Harper Ward) agreed that GPs are an issue the committee should be looking at. “But it’s not just GP access,” she said. “It’s health care access in the rural areas.

“The rural areas have an even bigger capacity problem than some of the practices in the town centre.

“We can’t keep dragging people into the town centre to access healthcare.”

Cllr James Weir (Conservative, Kempston Rural Ward) was concerned about the payments going to the CCG from new developments. He said, “One of the things that really winds me up is the £1,250 for every house that is going to the CCG.

“But we don’t see anything coming back into those communities, that is something the CCG should be mindful of.”

The mayor said that any money that is currently being put aside “isn’t being spent on anything at the moment.”

“And that’s the problem,” said Cllr Weir.

Cllr Jackson added that Section 106 funding is seen as being the answer to everything in health conversations, “but it just isn’t,” she said.

Mayor Hodgson said that a report showed an under-provision of health space across the Borough of 48 per cent.

“In the planning agreement for Wixams, we set aside land for a GP surgery. We gave up affordable houses or community space to put land aside for GP surgery.

“This was available at the 500th new home and went back to the developer at the 1,500th new home.

“We lost the land back to the developer because the PCT at the time, and then the CCG, didn’t pull their finger out and start to put foundations down.

“At the health and wellbeing board, the CCG proposed to go through outline business cases to get everything built by 2024.

“I will eat my hat if it is all built by 2024.”

Although he did later clarify that he would buy a chocolate one.

A BLMK CCG Spokesperson commented: “BLMK CCG has worked closely with health and care providers and Bedford Borough Council to develop a Primary Care Estates plan, which identifies projects required over the next ten years in Bedford Borough.

“These projects aim to provide more fit-for-purpose facilities in the rural communities across Bedford borough, as well as ambitions to deliver a number of Hub facilities, where this is appropriate.

“Both nationally and locally, it is recognised there can be value in bringing a range of services together into larger Hub facilities, enabling closer integration and more seamless care delivery between a range of teams and professionals at a local level.

“The amount of Section 106 funding secured towards health infrastructure has been limited since the Community Infrastructure Levy system was implemented for Bedford Borough.

“Where Section 106 funding is secured, the legal agreements established between the Council and developers ensure that these funds can only be directed to schemes that directly benefit the communities for which they were secured.

“There are joint ambitions between the CCG, Bedford Borough Council and Central Bedfordshire Council to develop a new health facility in Wixams, utilising a further plot of land secured for health within the Section 106 agreement.”

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter

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