NHS bosses have plans to ‘merge’ the health system across Bedford, Luton, and Milton Keynes – and politicians fear it is already a done deal.
The three areas’ clinical commisioning groups (CCGs), which oversee health across their patches – are set to be heavily integrated.
This will mean that they have a single accountable officer, and a single finance officer, leading the three organisations.
Councillor Louise Jackson, portfolio holder for public health at Bedford Borough Council, said: “I am really cross about this.
“There’s been no engagement with us about this – and that’s simply a bad idea.
“If you’re going to make a huge change like this then you want the public and the elected members to be on board.
“You don’t simply present them with the plan at the last minute and say ‘This is what we’re going to do.”.”
Various health services across Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes are already being merged, including various services across the three hospitals under the ongoing Strategic Transformation Plan.
And Bedford Hospital, and Luton & Dunstable Hospital are expected to merge, albeit those plans have been delayed because of a lack of government funding.
However a spokesman for Bedfordshire CCG denied that a decision had already been made.
They said: “As an Integrated Care System, we are looking to work collaboratively to ensure we can continue to meet the growing needs of those who live in Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes.
“With more people living longer with complex health needs and an increasing population, we need to take steps to work differently and reduce duplication – otherwise our combined budget will not be able to meet demand in the next three years.”
They added: “The benefits of aligning the CCGs will be that we will strengthen the leadership of the organisations to deliver economies of scale and reduce duplication, while also ensuring that we continue to work at a local level to deliver the needs of our populations.
“No decisions have been made. This is a proposal that has been designed for discussion. We have chosen to have this discussion at a meeting in public, to ensure complete transparency with elected members and residents.”