‘We’re at the bottom of the pile’
Residents voice their concerns to chiefs over local health services
Health chiefs were grilled over the performance of east Kent hospitals amid growing calls for a new one in Canterbury.
Bosses from East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust and local commissioning groups faced questions from residents at a public meeting organised by campaign group Concern for Health in East Kent (Chek).
Crowds filled the Northgate Community Centre on Saturday morning, with issues raised including shocking A&E waiting times, calls to restore emergency provision to the Kent & Canterbury and plans for a new hospital and medical school in the city.
Health bosses told those present that details of a shakeup of healthcare – known as the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) – will be unveiled in a consultation next spring.
It is likely to suggest all specialist services be moved to the William Harvey in Ashford, with the K&C offering rehabilitation services and pre-elective surgery.
Faversham MP Helen Whately was applauded for saying a new hospital in Canterbury must be included in the STP.
“A hospital should be in Canterbury with an A&E service,” she said. “I want to see that as an option in the STP. We need that on the table.”
Simon Perks, the accountable officer for the Canterbury and Coastal Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said healthcare in east Kent cannot stay the same.
“We need to deliver lasting change,” he said. “We’ve got a service at a point where it cannot stay as we are. We can’t flog the same model.”
There is an offer on the table from developer Quinn Estates to build the shell of a hospital next to the K&C, which the trust says is “being assessed to determine whether it has the potential to be included as a future option for hospital services”.
Liz Shutler, the trust’s deputy chief executive, said: “Until we get to the point where we go out to consult and know the options available to us we’re not in a position to change and invest in the site. We’re going to be in a difficult situation.”
Charlotte Cornell, parliamentary assistant for Rosie Duffield, attended on behalf of the Canterbury MP, who had a prior family arrangement. She paid tribute to Chek, which she described as “a loud and proud” group that Ms Duffield was “looking forward to working with”.
“We’re in a very scary place,” she said. “In our inbox we’re hearing stories which are emotional and should not happen.”
A presentation from Chek, led by membership secretary Jenny Cole, highlighted statistics showing the trust had one of the worst emergency waiting times in the country and had not hit its targets since 2014.
She said the group feared the changes would mean an end of the K&C “as we know it”, adding: “We are right at the bottom of the pile. It’s absolutely disgusting. For cancer care we are down the list. It’s not fair.
“Our vision is for a new medical school and along with that a new hospital.”
The trust is supporting calls for a new medical school, saying it will help address recruitment problems largely to blame for the current crisis.
Earlier this year Health Education England and the General Medical Council ordered the trust to remove most junior doctors from the K&C because there were not enough consultants to adequately supervise them.
It resulted in emergency provision – specifically heart and stroke services – being transferred to Ashford’s William Harvey and the QEQM in Margate.
The trust is still attempting to
‘We’re in a very scary place. In our inbox we’re hearing stories which are emotional and should not happen.’
Stephen Perks, accountable officer
The meeting was held at Northgate Community Centre