Shropshire libraries could link up with GP surgeries in drive to cut costs
Libraries could be run alongside GP surgeries as Shropshire Council looks to make a 30 per cent cut in funding.
The "health hubs" would offer general library services and internet access while also being the base for an NHS community care co-ordinator, according to proposals put forward by David Sandbach, a former chief officer at Telford's Princess Royal Hospital.
The idea has been backed in principal by officials at Shropshire Council, subject to further talks taking place with healthcare representatives.
It comes as the future of Shropshire's libraries remains unclear with more cuts in funding potentially on the horizon. Shropshire Council wants 22 of its libraries to be taken over by community organisations.
Mr Sandbach, speaking during a meeting of Shropshire Council's health and well-being board, said Pontesbury Library was one that could benefit from the health hub plan.
He said the future the library was "under stress" with Shropshire Council keen for either Pontesbury Parish Council or local organisations to take over the running.
Options include moving the library to a local school in a similar scheme to Church Stretton, where the town library is to shut and be run from Church Stretton School despite a fierce campaign against the move.
But a second option is to open a "health hub" community centre incorporating the library, combining the need to find a new home for the library service with an overhaul of health services under county under the NHS Future Fit review. He said: "In my opinion it is possible to meld both the cultural and public health duties of the council without detriment to either."
He suggested the library service could be housed in an extension to Pontesbury Medical Practice, in the redundant dental surgery next door, or even as a new-build on land close by, bank-rolled by the sale of the current building on Bogey Lane.
"It may be possible to turn an uncomfortable piece of council policy regarding library services into a major stride forward for the general health and well-being of the village and surrounding area," he said.
George Candler, Shropshire Council's director of commissioning, said: "We are more than happy to explore that option with key stakeholders, but we would obviously need all of those key people around the table including those from the GP surgery.
"We want our redesigned libraries and customer service points to be places that support early conversations with local residents that give them the best possible chance of accessing the support that they need within their communities.
"The library service is already developing 'health zones' within its libraries, places that bring together a range of resources.
"In principle libraries can be a part of Future Fit Plans to develop health hubs, although this is likely to be something considered on a locality by locality basis," he said.
Councillor Tim Barker said Craven Arms Community Centre was an example of a range of community services being offered from one site, including the town's library.
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