Biggleswade Ivel Valley health hub still 'second on the list' - but the timeline has been delayed by at least six months
The timeline for delivery has slipped from the end of 2023 to quarter three of 2024
Delays to a health and social care hub for Biggleswade are insufficient to put it to the back of a queue of similar projects across Central Bedfordshire a meeting heard.
The timeline has had to move because of the impact of Covid, a meeting of Central Bedfordshire Council's health and wellbeing board was told.
"Challenges within the system and the pandemic have caused the programme to be set back by at least six months," explained head of partnership and performance Patricia Coker.
"There are important difficulties around building material shortages which may also have an impact on the delivery timeline."
The priority given to the Ivel Valley hub was raised by Independent Biggleswade South councillor Hayley Whitaker during a progress update to the board.
"When we started out, Biggleswade was going to be the leader in how the hubs were going to roll out," she said.
"Even as recently as the April health board, it was still looking like the Ivel Valley hub would be one of the first to be delivered in early 2024.
"So it's disappointing to note today we're looking as being the last of the potential hubs to be delivered at the end of 2024.
"The timeline seems to have slipped considerably in the last few months.
"Why has Biggleswade slipped so far in comparison with the other hubs and are you anticipating further delays going forward?" she asked.
Ms Coker replied: "We started with Dunstable and Biggleswade at the same time.
"We faced some challenges reaching the point of being able to secure the asset or get an understanding with NHS Property Services that we could begin to work with an ambition to use the site for the hub.
"So we had to press on with Dunstable as a result because that site was in the gift of the council to progress that.
"But we secured an agreement with NHS Property Services for a lease which we're now pursuing.
"The initial timeline was for delivery at the end of 2023," she said. "It's shifted somewhat to perhaps quarter three of 2024, which is unfortunate.
"I can assure you Biggleswade Hospital is the second on our list and we intend to press on with it.
"The site is still a vaccination centre at the moment."
A schedule is in place for the executive over permission to procure design for the hub and to agree to lease the hospital site, added Ms Coker.
"We're having to work with services there already to look at alternative accommodation when site works begin.
"That's been suspended, but we need to re-engage thinking on that. We don't want to lose services from the Biggleswade area."
Director of social care, health and housing Julie Ogley said: "The council's committed to fund the first two hubs, but not the remaining three.
"So we're looking for capital. The capital in the NHS to date has been around the acute hospitals and beds.
"We're hopeful there might be some coming forward for primary care. It's one of the reasons why we're persisting to get the business cases sorted out.
"So if funding does become available we've got something ready to bid for.
"If colleagues are aware of other funding streams then it would be good to name them, so we can get the other hubs rolled out as well."