Published: 06:00, 20 August 2021
Plans to upgrade a major hospital's A&E department have been revealed as the site no longer has sufficient capacity to cope with growing patient numbers.
The emergency unit at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford is currently used by about 280 people each day – and pressure on the facility has increased because of the pandemic and the need for greater segregation.
It is predicted future demand could soar to about 400 patients daily, and to cater for this East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust has revealed hopes to expand the A&E department and create additional parking.
Currently NHS targets say 95% of patients should be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours of their arrival at an A&E department.
This is a decline from 81.8% in April. Nationally, the 95% standard was last met in July 2015.
The expansion proposals for the William Harvey would see the number of treatment spaces within the A&E unit increase by 15% – from 60 currently to 69 once the work is completed – and these bays would be more spacious than they are at present.
A spokesman for the trust said: "This application is part of a wider project to significantly expand the emergency departments at the William Harvey and QEQM, with new entrances, improved waiting areas, treatment areas for adults and children, and staff facilities.
"This significant expansion will give our patients, visitors and staff a bigger, better and safer environment."
Trust bosses lodged their plans to Ashford Borough Council on August 6 and residents are able to comment on the proposal until Saturday, September 4.
The submission of the scheme comes in spite of the uncertain future currently facing healthcare services in east Kent.
Earlier this year, images revealed for the first time what a new 'super' hospital in Canterbury could look like, which, if built, would see the William Harvey's A&E close.
The state-of-the-art facility planned for farmland next to the Kent and Canterbury Hospital is one of two options health chiefs are exploring as they look to transform healthcare in the east of the county.
The first proposal would see all specialist services in east Kent move to the William Harvey, with Margate’s QEQM retaining its A&E and maternity services and the Kent and Canterbury downgraded largely to a hub for elective surgery and rehabilitation.
The second would see the multi-million pound hospital built in Canterbury, hosting all specialist services and a major A&E department for 800,000 people across the region, meaning A&Es in Ashford and Margate would close.
A decision on which option will be taken remains a long way down the line.