PUBLIC consultation on plans to create a new health and wellbeing centre in Keighley is due to get under way next month.

The facility could be built on currently-vacant land in the centre of town – two potential sites have been identified, the locations of which aren’t being disclosed at this stage for confidentiality reasons.

Or another option being considered is to refurbish and expand the existing Keighley Health Centre complex, in Oakworth Road, which is also home to Holycroft Surgery.

NHS bosses say a growing population need, increasing health inequalities and the deteriorating state and cost of maintaining the present buildings – Keighley Health Centre, and Holycroft and North Street surgeries – have strengthened the case for change.

The plan has been debated by Bradford Council’s health and social care overview & scrutiny committee, whose members said it was important that all communities were involved in the consultation.

In a report to the committee, Lynne Scrutton – associate director for keeping well – said: “The need for healthcare estate development in Keighley has been recognised for many years.

“Former NHS bodies have proceeded to the public consultation stage, however the development and delivery of a solution did not proceed due to a range of reasons – including financial constraints and NHS reorganisation. The case for change has not diminished – it is in fact stronger.”

Keighley Central councillor Khadim Hussain said: “North Street Surgery has had issues for some time.

“With the health centre there is a space issue, it is quite cramped as it is. To get more on to that site is a far-fetched idea.”

Referring to one of the un-named sites for possible development, he said: “One site in the town centre has been mentioned for some time. It was four or five years ago since the site was first highlighted.

“That site seems appropriate, but we have to go through the correct procedure.”

Dr James Thomas, clinical chairman of NHS Bradford District and Craven Clinical Commissioning Group, told the Keighley News that the consultation would aim to reach as many people as possible.

He said: “We are pleased that members of the health and social care overview & scrutiny committee were supportive of our plans to work with communities in Keighley to understand the best way forward on the plans to create a health and wellbeing centre.

“We operate very closely with local communities as part of our wider work in Keighley and will build on these relationships to ensure we have meaningful conversations to understand local views and healthcare needs as part of the process.

“We’ll build on our existing networks with local faith groups, voluntary and charitable sector organisations, community centres, existing patient participation groups, community leaders and patients currently registered in Keighley. We’ll develop a detailed engagement plan to allow for discussion and two-way conversations that involve as many people as possible.”

Dr Thomas added: “Work is already under way with local partners on creating an engagement document that will set out the current situation and what potential solutions we are exploring.

“We’ll create a survey that can be completed in a number of a different ways – online, over the phone and through the post – as well as organise a series of listening events, within current Covid-19 restrictions. This is planned to get under way in November.

“We will use a range of means to ensure as many people as possible have a chance to take part, from promoting this through our existing local community networks to working with local media.

“We’d like to reassure local people that their views will be considered and any outcome will be shaped by the needs and feedback of communities, alongside the considerations of quality and affordability.

“This is a great opportunity to work together to improve healthcare services across Keighley, to listen and learn about the issues facing local people and to understand how we can also tackle inequalities that some communities face when accessing health care.

“We’re very much looking forward to working with the people of Keighley so we can determine the best way forward, together.”

The report presented to the committee said that in central Keighley, there are five practices within one-and-a-half miles of each other.

North Street Surgery – which is housed in a converted Georgian property and caters for 6,500 patients – is currently providing care under a so-called Alternative Personal Medical Services (APMS) contract, which has already been extended to its limit and expires in November next year.

The practice serves a population in the most deprived decile nationally.

In recognition of the need to reduce health inequalities for the population, the current contract has additional requirements.

And ‘market testing’ is to be carried out to gauge interest from potential contract providers for the surgery.

The report added: “Given the market testing, it is proposed that engagement activities with patients registered at the North Street Surgery commence prior to consultation on a broader scale.

“Once the information is published on the relevant procurement frameworks it is publicly available. In view of this, it is important to inform patients of the nature of an APMS contract so that the clinical commissioning group as commissioner and Affinity Care as current provider are not misrepresented, and so patients understand the efforts being made to ascertain whether there are providers interested in taking on the contract and the potential implications if there is no interest. It would also be an opportunity to advise patients of the forthcoming estate engagement and the importance of responding with views.”