25/03/2018—for immediate release


60 people attended a meeting to save Bedford’s Putnoe Walk-in Centre (“PWIC”).  Also present were Bedford MP Mohammad Yasin, local councillors and trades union representatives.  The meeting, at Putnoe Heights church last Thursday, 22nd March, was organised by Hands Off Our NHS! – Bedfordshire – Luton – Milton Keynes (1) and Hands Off Bedford Hospital.

The meeting was chaired by Rosie Newbigging.  Speakers were Steve Carne from campaign “999 For The NHS” (2), Bedford Borough Councillor for Goldington Jade Uko and Joanne Owen, a therapist.

Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (“BCCG”) plans to close PWIC on 30 September, despite urging patients to use the centre while Bedford Hospital’s A&E remains under pressure.   A new Urgent Treatment Centre (“UTC”) at Bedford Hospital is planned to open on 1 October.  Beds CCG had declined to attend the meeting, sending just a written statement promising ‘engagement’ (but not consultation) soon. Until closure, PWIC, which sees over 35,000 patients a year will have its hours reduced.  Over 6,000 people signed a petition in ten days when PWIC’s closure was announced. 

Opening, Rosie Newbigging, recalled recent cuts and closures in local health provision including acute in-patient mental health services, the collapse of private Patient Transport Services and the (currently deferred) takeover of Bedford Hospital by Luton & Dunstable. Rosie said: “Bedford, with its growing population, needs a full A&E department, much better GP services, an Urgent Care Centre and a Walk-in Centre”.

Steve Carne set these changes in context of national NHS reconfiguration.  He warned the proposed “Accountable Care/Integrated Care Systems(3) would hand over the NHS wholesale to US-style health insurance companies.  He said: “so-called ‘integration’ will only benefit managers.  Capitated budgets (4) will mean rationing care—this has already started”.

Cllr Uko said her ward (where PWIC is located) had many poor families and increasing numbers of elderly:  “Closing PWIC flies in the face of the commitment to improved care in the community.  Tonight we have drawn a line in the sand and shown we care about our local health services.  The UTC won’t deliver the same model of care.  Appointments may need booking, so patients will use A&E instead.”

Joanne Owen cited Bedford Hospital’s poor bus connections.  The UTC would worsen Bedford Hospital’s already chaotic parking.  In other towns, such infrastructure deficits combined with poor consultation processes had sparked a judicial review.

Discussion included:

  • Beds CCG’s failure to consult the Council’s Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee which has a legal remit to address such major changes in local health provision.
  • The physical location of health provision: difficulty of expanding “landlocked” Bedford Hospital, and need for another walk-in centre south of the river.
  • PWIC closure would short-change occupiers of new housing developments, who had assumed health provision nearby.  Developers failed to provide under s.106.
  •  “The UTC is a red herring, and nothing to do with closure of PWIC.  They are not the same”.  MP Mohammad Yasin agreed, saying PWIC closure would be “a loss of service not a substitution”.
  • Campaign strategy: key questions, issues, consultations and meetings.  Call for demonstrations or direct action, as at e.g. Lewisham.

Summing up, Jo Owen said: “together, we are going to make a difference”.  Rosie Newbigging urged: “Let’s follow campaigners in other places, who are gearing up and getting successful”.


Notes to editors


1)  Hands Off Our NHS! – Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes was formed in January 2018 when Hands Off Bedford Hospital campaigners coalesced with those in Luton and Milton Keynes.  There is particular concern about plans to merge or consolidate on just one site hospital services currently delivered in all three towns. We aim:

…to oppose any cuts, closures and privatisations at Bedford, Milton Keynes and Luton & Dunstable Hospitals and in the wider health and social care system. We will campaign in unity to protect services throughout Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes, to reinstate previously reduced or closed services and to ensure services are free for all at the point of use and regardless of ability to pay.

For full aims see

2) 999 Call For The NHS:

3)  Accountable Care Organisations/Integrated Care Systems

ACO/ICS (the acronyms mutate) are the latest version of Sustainable Transformation Plans (“STPs”) aiming to reconfigure the NHS in 44 “footprints” across England.  The Bedford-Luton-Milton Keynes (“BLMK”) footprint is one of ten pilots for ACO/ICS implementation. STPs are driven by NHS England operating through local Clinical Commissioning Groups (“CCGs”).

One aim of ACO/ICS is to unify and integrate local health and social care provision which has—largely through privatisation and underfunding—become increasingly fragmented.  In particular, they propose to integrate “primary” (GP-based), “secondary” (hospital-based) and “social” care in one structure.  However, resources for this project are critically lacking.  We believe hospital closures are just a cover for cuts.

Moreover, there is concern that ACO/ICS will hugely accelerate NHS privatisation, in particular by US corporations, to create an insurance-based system like US Medicare.  This new public/private business model would only provide basic state-funded healthcare for those too poor (or too ill) to obtain private health insurance.

(4)  Capitated budgets

With “capitated” (fixed, annual lump-sum) budgets, treatment would be driven by financial considerations, not individual patient needs, and could therefore be standardised, de-skilling clinicians.  Treatment rationing (which has already started in BLMK) would be routine.  Of particular concern is a proposal to incentivise cost-cutting by allowing companies to pocket—for profit, not re-investment—any under-spend.

Forthcoming events

  • Thurs 12th April, 19.30: Wolverton Working Mens’ Social Club, 49-50 Stratford Rd, Wolverton, Milton Keynes, MK12 5LSHands Off Our NHS!  Bedford – Luton- Milton Keynes: monthly planning meeting—all welcome.
  • Tues 17th April, 6.30pm:  Bedford Borough Council, Borough Hall, Cauldwell Street, Bedford: Joint Health Overview & Scrutiny Committee.  Open meeting.
  • Sat 30th June: Bedford, Luton, Milton Keynes: groups attending the national March for the NHS, and supporters, will march from their respective through town centres to their train station.
  • Thurs 5th July:  70th birthday of the NHS – activities planned.