A planned overhaul of mental health services in Bedfordshire remains on track, if a complex finance arrangement is in place to proceed with the £70m investment.
Under the proposals, a £60m new premises is scheduled for Bedford Health Village, while £10m would be spent improving the Luton centre for mental health, next to the Luton and Dunstable Hospital.
The completion timeline is based on one year planning and two years construction, according to director of integrated care for East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT) Richard Fradgley.
But he warned that there remains a need to have an identified source of capital departmental expenditure limit (CDEL) to proceed through to public consultation.
ELFT has the £60m investment for Bedford and the £10m for refurbishment in Luton from our reserves, so we have the cash available, Mr Fradgley told a BLMK Clinical Commissioning Group governing body meeting.
“What we don’t have is CDEL, the capital cover arrangements which flow either nationally or through integrated care systems which allows us to spend that money,” he explained. “That’s our key risk.
“The most promising source of CDEL is likely to be the recent opportunity published by the Department of Health and Social Care for trusts to express an interest and join the new hospitals programme, which we’ve done.
“We hope to hear in the next month whether we’ve been successful. We’re collectively investing £27m into Bedfordshire and Luton mental health services via the long-term plan through to 2023/24.”
Part of the plans involve changing the use of other sites, such as Oakley Court in Leagrave and Townsend Court in Houghton Regis.
“In the future, anyone who needs admission, will go to Bedford or Luton,” said Mr Fradgley. “There’ll be a new in-patient facility for children and young people.
“The case for change has been prepared with our service user and carer group actively involved, as well as the three overview and scrutiny committees for Bedford, Central Bedfordshire and Luton.
“We’re currently in a live process of engagement around the case for change, which will run until around the end of October.
“We intend to use the insight we generate to help inform our pre-consultation business case, which will be taken back through the scrutiny committees., yourselves and the trust board.“
BLMK CCG director of commissioning, contracting and transformation Richard Alsop said: “This has been a point of contention over the (mental health) beds in Bedford being lost. This is an exciting proposal to put that back into the mix.
“But also it’s looking to offer more locally with some collaborative assessment and management of suicidality (CAMS) services, which has always been an issue for us.
“And there’s the excitement around a state-of-the-art facility which will help with recruitment and retention of staff.”
Dr Sarah Whiteman, who chairs the CCG, said: “The desperate need for CAMS services is indisputable.”
BLMK CCG interim medical director Dr Ed Sivills referred to the importance of “continuity“, saying: “You can have the best buildings in the world, but if you don’t have regular access to people who know you it’s not as helpful as it could be. I’d like that to be a priority as well.”
Mr Fradgley replied: “Moving to two from four sites will help create centres of excellence and the environment with the culture and ways of working that will make these two units places were people want to be employed.”