Sir Oliver Heald, the MP for North East Hertfordshire, led a debate in the House of Commons this week about healthcare facilities in Royston.

He used the debate, on Monday, June 5, as an opportunity to support a plan proposed by local doctors for a new community diagnostic centre (CDC) in Royston.

Sir Oliver believes that Royston having a state-of-the-art health centre and a CDC, both on the site currently occupied by Royston Hospital, would be "an eminently sensible way forward".

He wants the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) to support him in persuading Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Integrated Care Board (ICB) of this.

However, Sir Oliver voiced his concern that Royston is "not receiving the recognition that it needs from the NHS", warning that the town “appears to be a forgotten part of the region by NHS decisionmakers".

In January, Will Quince – a junior DHSC minister – told Sir Oliver that it was for Hertfordshire and West Essex ICB to decide whether Royston needed a new CDC.

It was only when Sir Oliver queried this with the DHSC that they confirmed it is, in fact, the Cambridge and Peterborough ICB that is responsible for making that decision.

Their estates plan, according to Sir Oliver, "proposes transferring clinical services from the current Royston Hospital site into the Royston health centre, and then disposing of the hospital site".

But in a recent letter to the MP, the ICB said that "no decision has been made about the future of Royston Hospital".

Sir Oliver criticised the idea of “disposing” of the hospital site and relying on other, existing facilities.

He said: "We do not want to lose our hospital site and be left struggling in the existing GP practice buildings, which come from a time when the town was half its current size.

"Where would the advantages of the sort of modern state-of-the-art health centre that we want be? They would be absent. There would be no room for our diagnostics unit.”

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Instead, Sir Oliver supports an idea proposed by Dr James Morrow, the managing partner of Granta Medical Practices, which runs Royston Health Centre and Market Hill GP surgeries.

Dr Morrow believes Royston requires a state-of-the-art health centre and a CDC to make the most of the merging of different practices.

According to Sir Oliver, Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge also believes that Royston could be a good location for a CDC. The MP said that local people support the refurbishing of Royston Hospital alongside the provision of a new CDC.

"A new, modern building would mean that the patients reliant on Royston would have guaranteed long-term primary care services provided in a locally based setting, satisfying the ICB mission to think local. It would also be future-proofed.

"What local doctors are proposing satisfies the current national programme seeking to improve access to common diagnostic tests using community diagnostic centres.

"The combining of services from the two Granta practices plus utilising the opportunity to cascade services from Addenbrooke’s into primary care and diagnostics at Royston is both opportune and efficient, and it would help with solving the problem of staff shortages."

He wants to see Granta, the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough ICB, and Addenbrooke's Hospital engage in discussions around this vision.

Responding to Sir Oliver for the DHSC was primary care minister Neil O'Brien.

Mr O’Brien said that the ICB is talking to the Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust, Granta Medical Services, and NHS Property Services to review their sites "and consider options for a potential healthcare centre", which would share a location with primary care and diagnostic facilities.

The minister revealed that the ICB "is about to begin a comprehensive listening and engagement exercise for an initial six weeks" before taking a decision on the future of the community hospital. More details will be provided in the coming weeks.