KEIGHLEY Library could become a focal point for an ambitious new initiative to improve local people’s health.

Library bosses are in talks with GPs to bring together a range of community health and well-being services in the historic building on North Street.

Health services provided by voluntary groups and charities would sit alongside library services like book lending, local history and computers.

The potential team-up – which is in its early stages – has grown out of moves by Bradford Council to cut millions of pounds from its libraries budget.

The first round of cuts bite on September 1, involving management changes; a cut in the book fund to £298,300 per year; and Keighley, Bingley and Shipley becoming ‘hub libraries’ with a 30% reduction in staffing.

A further £1.05 million has to be cut from the libraries budget district-wide in 2020/21, prompting staff to explore ideas such as co-locating with other services and recruiting volunteers.

Officers last week held informal talks with Modality Partnership, the ‘super-practice’ of Keighley GPs, to consider a new Keighley Health Partnership uniting charities, voluntary and community groups to provide “more consistent” community health services. Modality spokesman Bill Graham said libraries had successfully got involved with communities in Sunderland, Manchester and Liverpool.

He said: “Keighley Library is an obvious place to look at. Libraries are a wonderful space where people can connect and learn, and we know people who are well-connected and learning tend to feel better about themselves and lead healthier lives.

“We are short of space in Keighley to provide the sort of joined-up integrated community health offer the forms part of the NHS five-year forward view. But Keighley has an amazing number of community organisations and groups that want to offer care and help to local people.”

Mr Graham stressed that everything was at an early stage, with no commitments from anyone, and that Modality was also looking at other suitable buildings.

He added: “We would need to ensure local residents and patients led this work as the last thing we want to do is upset existing local services.”

Modality and Bradford Council this week stressed that whether or not the Health Partnership went ahead, the Keighley Library building would still operate as a library.

A council spokesman said it was normal for its officers speak to other organisations such as Modality, adding: “In these times of austerity there is no room for ‘silo working’. We have to work with others.

“We remain committed to sharing any firm proposals for delivering savings, and undertaking undertaking an extensive consultation process with unions, staff, stakeholders and members of the public.”

Proposals for 2020/21 savings will be put out for public consultation in coming months, ready for a decision by the council early in 2020.