Plans to close A&E greeted
Campaigners fighting to keep service in town
Angry health campaigners say a plan to shut the William Harvey Hospital’s A&E unit is “totally unacceptable” – and are calling on the town to unite in opposition.
NHS bosses are formally considering a proposal for a new super hospital in Canterbury, which could mean Ashford’s emergency department is reduced to a GPled urgent treatment centre.
It follows an offer from developer Mark Quinn to build the shell of a state-of-the-art hospital in the cathedral city, in return for permission to build 2,000 homes on surrounding land.
But political leaders in Ashford say the plan should be thrown out – and the Kentish Express has now launched a campaign to save the town’s A&E.
Ashford MP Damian Green said: “I am strongly against any proposals to move A&E away from the William Harvey – I think this would be a terrible idea.
“We all know that the hospital is right next to a motorway, which in normal times means that ambulances have ideal access.
“What we should all do is make our views known – we do not want to see any downgrading of the services offered at the William Harvey.”
The Canterbury super hospital plan is one of two options health commissioners are considering for east Kent, which currently has the worst A&E waiting times in the country despite emergency measures to tackle the crisis.
If the super hospital is given the green light, Canterbury would become the only major emergency centre for all of east Kent, moving the A&Es at Ashford and From left, MP Damian Green, and borough councillors Paul Bartlett and Gerry Clarkson the QEQM Hospital in Margate onto the one site.
But health bosses are also looking at a proposal to keep the Harvey as a major emergency centre with a 24/7 A&E department, which would make the QEQM the second emergency hospital – with 24/7 A&E – and the Kent and Canterbury Hospital a GPled urgent treatment centre.
One of the two emergency hospitals would also be the centre for highly specialist services in east Kent, such as trauma, vascular and specialist heart services.
Former Ashford Borough Council (ABC) leader Paul Bar- tlett, who represents the Weald East ward, says the prospect of losing Ashford’s A&E is “really not on”.
“I think the first option they are looking at, to keep the Harvey as a major emergency centre, is business as usual,” he said.
“But the key point is that they will be also considering closing the A&E and shifting it to Canterbury, which will be bad news for the people of Ashford and Tenterden. It is totally unacceptable – we have thousands of new homes coming to the town and all of those residents are going to need the treatment and expect an A&E.” Cllr Bartlett, who is also a Kent county councillor for Ashford Central, called on residents to become members of the East Kent Hospitals trust to keep upto-date with developments.
Current ABC leader Gerry Clarkson says Ashford is the best place for an A&E.
He said: “Ashford is a growing town in terms of population and it is a very large district.
“We would be quite determined to defend any threat to our A&E.
“When you look at its geographical position and transport links, it makes sense for A&E to remain in Ashford.
“There is a consultation period and we will respond in a measured way.”
The proposals are to be scrutinised and discussed at an open meeting at the Grand Hotel in Folkestone from 9am to 11am today (Thursday).
To register interest in attending the meeting, email info@ eastkent.nhs.uk. For more information, visit www.kentandmedway.nhs.uk or www.ekhuft.nhs. uk to become a trust member. For the full Our Man In Westminster column, see page 18.