Patients on waiting list could be treated within weeks in France
Patients needing surgery in east Kent are being denied access to quick operations at a modern French hospital, say health chiefs across the Channel.
Centre Hospitalier de Calais has been geared up to take on hundreds of British NHS patients since January last year, but in that time it has seen only two.
It currently has an arrangement with the South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) but admits it has been disappointed by the take-up.
Despite the proximity and waiting lists, there is no such arrangement with the Canterbury and Coastal Commissioning Group.
General manager of the Calais hospital, Martin Trelcat , says he has no waiting list and patients can be seen within weeks for orthopaedics, pain management, ear, nose and throat, gynaecology, general surgery, cataract surgery and urology.
The hospital has even installed English signage, designed part of its website to cater for British patients and trained doctors and nurses in English medical terminology.
But frustrated bosses say it has been a waste of time and energy and instead they always have five to six empty rooms available.
Mr Trelcat says they can see patients from Kent as soon as next week if needed, but no one is taking up the option.
“We signed the agreement in January 2016, and planned to welcome around 100 patients in two years and within four years, 400 patients [from the South Kent CCG],” he said.
“Instead, we saw one last year and one this year.
“We have done everything to welcome NHS patients with a high standard of care.
“Patients can be seen next week if they want to be. Appointments are based around patient availability.
“We are ready to take them now.”
He says referrals are made to Calais and then cancelled at last minute when a Kent hospital space comes up.
The CCG can contract appointments out to either Calais or East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, which is responsible for the QEQM in Margate, William Harvey in Ashford and Kent & Canterbury.
It is understood that the east Kent trust is not made aware if Calais is asked to carry out the appointment.
The trust would not comment on the Calais claims, but says the agreement between them and the CCG does not mean any less money for local services.
Centre Hospitalier de Calais has been geared up to take on hundreds of British NHS patients since January last year