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Home Canterbury News Article
Hospital bosses in east Kent have been forced to centralise high-risk and emergency surgery to avoid a “serious clinical risk” to patients, it was revealed today.
The East Kent health trust is moving all acute general surgery to Kent and Canterbury hospital after admitting it fears patients’ safety would otherwise be jeopardised by a shortage of specialist surgeons.
Just seven of the 16 surgeons currently performing the operations at Ashford’s William Harvey hospital and the QEQM hospital in Margate are permanently employed by the NHS.
And with some due to retire and others leaving, the Trust is concerned it would have to rely on locum surgeons without specialist general surgery skills to staff the two centres - putting patients at risk.
It is hoped setting up a hub in Canterbury - with a new theatre and ward - will help recruit nine new gastro-intestinal surgeons with the required skills.
Trust medical director Dr Paul Stevens said: “We have found it necessary to take this decision because of a serious clinical risk that will arise in high-risk general surgery due to insufficient gastro-intestinal surgeons being available to provide emergency cover, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“This has come about because of the increasing sub-specialisation of surgery, the lack of availability of surgeons with skills that are essential to managing high-risk and emergency general surgery, and the difficulty of recruiting both permanent and locum medical staff.
“If rotas were to be maintained at two centres they would become staffed predominately by locum surgeons, which would have potential implications for patient safety, which the Trust cannot ignore..." - Trust medical director Dr Paul Stevens
“If rotas were to be maintained at two centres they would become staffed predominately by locum surgeons, which would have potential implications for patient safety, which the Trust cannot ignore.
“The Trust has taken steps to address these issues, but there remains a problem in recruiting sufficient appropriate surgical staff to maintain two emergency rotas.”
The decision follows a report to the Trust board, which outlined the reasons why it needed to make the change and the risks of not doing so.
As it is an issue of patient safety, there will be no public consultation on the move, which the Trust hopes will be complete by May.
Clinical assessment in emergency departments, day surgery and low-risk general surgery will continue as now in both Ashford and Margate.
All other forms of surgery are unaffected by this decision, as are accident and emergency and the interim trauma unit.
Dr Stevens added: “We want to make it clear that this is an interim decision being taken to ensure high risk and emergency general surgery are delivered in the safest possible way.
“This decision will allow us to concentrate our staff resources and ensure the provision of high quality care for all our patients with positive outcomes, as identified by national best practice.”
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