A family doctor sprang to the defence of a controversial new health body by saying it has passed his ‘poo test’.
The creation of one single clinical commissioning group covering Bedfordshire, Luton, and Milton Keynes, has been heavily criticised by local councillors for taking decision-making away from local people.
Those attacks continued at the joint annual meeting of three dying organisations which are being glued together to form the new body that holds the purse strings for hospital and community health services.
But Dr Linus Onah, a GP in Biggleswade, described how people from across the three areas have worked together on the creation of a new “poo test” that is used to detect bowel cancer.
“We were able to talk to different vendors and get a good bargain for how much we were paying for the project,” he said.
“But at the end of the day when it came to how to implement it we were able to do that in slightly different ways across all three patches.”
Councillors from across the area have opposed the move, and Bedford elected representatives – including the mayor Dave Hodgson, carried out a rearguard action against the move at Tuesday’s virtual meeting.
From next April the three bodies will officially become one organisation, which councillors in Bedford fear could leave services less responsive to local needs and more vulnerable to cuts or closures in the future.
Bedford Green councillor Lucy Bywater (Castle) said people in the town distrusted health bodies because of the loss of a hydrotherapy pool service and worries about the future of the Putnoe Walk-in Centre.
Dr Nicola Smith, a Bletchley GP who chairs the new body said: “We can’t revisit the past but we can learn from it.
“Sometimes as clinicians we don’t appreciate how much patients appreciate some services.
“Things weren’t perfect before.
“They won’t be 100 per cent perfect in the future but we are going to do the very best we can to make things better.”
Mayor Dave Hodgson and Lib Dem councillor Dean Crofts (Kingsbrook) said the merger had been pushed through against the opposition of local people.
Patricia Davies, the accountable officer for the new group, said: “Let’s be clear it isn’t the majority of the public respondents being against.”
She then went on to say that 357 had supported the proposal, 125 were neutral and 420 did not support the move.
“We can’t assume neutrals are opposed,” she said, adding that the majority of opponents were in Bedford borough.
But she claimed that “we have to look at that whole response”, and the merger “did not require consultation because we are not changing services.”
She added that if the three organisations had not worked together the response to covid “would have fallen over.”
Dr Smith said: “At the end of the day it is what you make of it.”
She called on “partner organisations” like the councils to “highlight things that aren’t going well.”
By David Tooley
Local Democracy Reporter