Published: 06:00, 20 August 2019
| Updated: 13:50, 11 September 2019
Health chiefs are “insulting” patients in Ashford by prolonging a decision on the future of the town's hospital, claims a campaign group.
The first would see all major services centralised at the William Harvey, with the Kent and Canterbury Hospital downgraded to little more than a cottage hospital specialising in orthopaedic rehabilitation.
But health bosses admit the chosen proposal could take as long as seven years to implement when a consultation is eventually launched.
Campaign group Concern for Health in East Kent (Chek) wants the process to be dramatically sped up.
Chairman Ken Rogers said: “The continued deliberation of what has been the longest drawn-out run-up to a public consultation is an insult to the patients and health professionals of east Kent.
“To delay even further the decision to accept and build the new hospital in Canterbury shows incompetency to deliver what has been needed and clearly identified for 20 years.
“Patients are still experiencing a service that has yet to improve substantially in quality.”
The reconfiguration of services - known as the Kent and Medway Sustainability Transformation Plan - was first published in 2016, but a consultation on the proposals has faced a number of delays.
Hold-ups have been blamed on Brexit negotiations, the snap General Election in 2017, and the emergence of Mark Quinn's offer to build the shell of a new city hospital in the same year.
Mr Rogers said: “We have been campaigning for more than 20 years for a new hospital and thought we were getting somewhere - but this year Brexit has frustrated our efforts.
“We are dealing now with a much-improved hospital service, but it will not get to the level we want to see without major funding from central government.
“The publication of the STP in October 2016 promised the earth in many ways, but that was three years ago.”
Canterbury and Whitstable Labour MP Rosie Duffield has called on health minister Stephen Hammond to confirm when a public consultation will begin.
Mr Hammond said he would write to Ms Duffield when he has an answer.
Yesterday, KentOnline reported Ashford MP Damian Green described the super hospital proposal as "mad".