The rollout of health hubs in Central Bedfordshire should be celebrated and not pitch one town or rural area against another, a meeting heard.
Timelines for the delivery of the five integrated health and social care hubs have been set back by about six months because of the pandemic.
“Seven-day a week extended high quality health and social care services in local communities” is the aim, according to Central Bedfordshire Council’s head of partnership and performance Patricia Coker.
Four hubs were originally envisaged in 2014, she told the local authority’s health and wellbeing board.
“As the housing expansion in Houghton Regis began to emerge, we realised we needed to include that in our planning framework,” she explained.
“We’ve carried on with the design elements for the Dunstable hub, from which 28 services will be delivered.
“Activities have included remodelling to avoid wastes of space within the design, which includes room for the primary care network functions.
“We don’t have all the GP practices in Dunstable moving into the hub, but it will serve all of the town’s population.
“Ivel Valley is being used as a vaccination site, so we have to plan our time to respond to the priorities within the system.
“We’ve an agreement in principle for the land at the Biggleswade Hospital site and our delivery timeline for that is 2024.
“We’ve completed the strategic elements for the remaining three hubs, and the next stage is to work on the outline business cases.”
The preferred location in Houghton Regis is the Kingsland site, she said.
“The project is linked to the site development, so the proposal could be to have a hub next to a potential leisure centre or other facility which will complement our intentions for the town.
“We’re aiming for a delivery model which is efficient and serves people in rural locations.
“The work will identify where we need specific spokes, for example over a hub in the Flitwick or Steppingley area.
“We’ve got significant housing growth and expansion in the Marston area, so we need to think about what it means for that population.
“We’re not going to duplicate Dunstable in Mid West Beds. A spoke might be somewhere which includes primary care to some extent.
“It could be a spoke is run by the community and the whole model is very different.”
Liberal Democrat Houghton Hall councillor Susan Goodchild said: “For such a long time all we’ve wanted to know is ‘will this happen, and where’s it going to be situated?’
“For me personally it isn’t about one town against another, or one rural area. This is something to be celebrated.
“It would just fill our hearts with joy to know something is happening.”
Ms Coker replied: “We’ve looked at the capacity pressures on GP surgeries and the local housing growth.
“After Biggleswade and the Mid West Beds hubs, technically it will be Houghton Regis next.
“Houghton Regis is linked to the Kingsland development, so we’re following that timeline.
“We’ve located the hub in the place where we can build community cohesion and join the two communities together.
“The Kingsland site offered us extra options in terms of delivery,” she added.
“We did look at the HRN1 site. A piece of land came with section 106 contributions, but there’s no capital funds to build there.
“We’re looking to see how we can leverage section 106 funding to add it towards the Kingsland work.”