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Fears Raised Over Health Bodies Merger as Council Declares its Opposition to Plans

June 29, 2020 3:28 PM

Dean CroftsBedford Borough Council's Executive has declared its opposition to the merger of the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups. The position was agreed at a meeting at which Councillors expressed their fears over the implications of more remote, unresponsive decision-making, following a presentation on the project to merge the bodies responsible for planning and commissioning local healthcare services.

The 'One BLMK CCG Programme' is being pursued by the three CCGs to comply with national Government Policy, and the report to the Council's Executive outlined the extensive work that has already taken place on the merger. Mayor Dave Hodgson stated his opposition to the plans and said that while a consultation may not legally be required, he is calling for one because local people deserve to have a real say on the matter.

Planning and commissioning healthcare services in Bedford Borough is currently the responsibility of Bedfordshire CCG, covering Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire, and the merger plans would see one CCG covering the whole of Bedfordshire (including Luton) and Milton Keynes. Several Executive members raised concerns over the impact of more remote decision-making on healthcare services in Bedford.

Councillors Christine McHugh and Michael Headley noted that a more distant CCG is likely to be less responsive to local communities, and that this could have harmful consequences for crucial issues such as Putnoe Walk-In Centre, the long-term future of which is still in question after a previous attempt by the CCG to close it. Councillor Henry Vann also added his opposition to the plans and asked for assurances that consultation and engagement would be more meaningful that it had been in the past when his FOI request in 2017 uncovered plans for a downgrade of Bedford Hospital.

Bedford Borough Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Cllr Dean Crofts raised questions over the merger at the meeting, and commented after: "The merger plans move decision-making over healthcare services further away from the communities affected. This report detailed how far down this road they are already, pursuing a government policy which frankly will make local services more vulnerable to cuts and closures. Locally we have seen vital facilities such as the Putnoe Walk-In Centre and Bedford Hospital placed under threat in recent years, and these changes would only make them more vulnerable to future threats."

You can read the CCG's report to Bedford Borough Council's Executive at Item 7 on the agenda, and watch a video recording of the meeting, here.