People in Wixams have been told it is not possible to commit to new healthcare premises in the town by 2025, but steps are being taken to “improve” capacity in the out-of-town surgeries the residents currently use.
This morning (8 December) ahead of the Bedfordshire, Luton & Milton Keynes (BLMK) Integrated Care Board (ICB) meeting at Milton Keynes City Council, the Wixams Surgery Action Group presented the ICB with a petition demanding it provides a doctor’s surgery in the town.
The group said the petition had over 2000 signatures “which demonstrates just how many people would benefit from the much-needed healthcare centre”.
Questions from the Action Group’s chair, Barbara Matthews, were read out once the ICB meeting had started:
“We know that Wixams as a whole meets the defined criteria for a GP practice,” she wrote.
“Can you please explain how the ICB will now deliver the Wixams GP practice with support from Bedford Borough Council and Central Bedfordshire Council funding and that the annual running cost will be funded by BLMK ICB?
“Additionally, can you show us that work can start on constructing the practice building within the next 12 months and it will open in January 2025,” she asked.
Dean Westcott, chief finance officer, answered Ms Matthews “important” questions as the “ICB executive with responsibility for estates”.
“We understand the strength of feeling in Wixams about access to health care, and in particular the absence of a GP surgery within Wixams itself,” he said.
“We know this leads to residents having to travel outside of Wixams to see a healthcare professional, often to Bedford, Wootton, Great Denham and Ampthill.
“It remains the stated ambition of the ICB to establish a primary care facility in the centre of WIxams,” he said.
“A key first step is to secure planning permission for the facility and we are continuing to work with the developer on this.
“However, even where there is a clear demand for a facility we must ensure that both the construction and the ongoing running costs of this facility are affordable.
“This is not the case at the current time and we are therefore unable to commit to having new healthcare premises available by 2025,” he said.
He added that the ICB is taking action to “improve” primary care capacity in the surgeries Wixams residents currently use.
“This includes recruiting more GPs and other expert clinicians, investing in the extension and improvement of premises (where it is cost-effective to do so),” he said.
“Growing the number of appointments available in primary care, introducing cloud-based telephony to support patients’ experience of calling practices at peak times.
“Supporting more health services to be delivered in pharmacies and exploring the feasibility of temporary healthcare premises.
“Central Bedfordshire Council, Bedford Borough Council and the NHS are working closely together to seek a viable financial solution for the community.
“Our recent productive discussions focused on ways we could potentially bridge the gap in capital funding.
“We will update residents and their representatives again in the new year,” he said.
by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter