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East Kent Hospitals trust bids for £34m emergency cash to keep services 'safe'

Hospital chiefs have made a bid for £34 million of emergency funding to help tackle a backlog of urgently-needed repairs.

Last week, the Kentish Gazette revealed that infrastructure failures across the east Kent trust’s estate have caused more than 200 incidents in the last year in which patients were ‘harmed or put at risk of harm’.

They ranged from temperatures on a maternity ward dropping so low because of faulty air conditioning that babies were left at risk of becoming hypothermic, to endoscopy examinations being cancelled after rain caused a ceiling to flood.

The Kent and Canterbury Hospital
The Kent and Canterbury Hospital

The trust, which runs the Kent and Canterbury Hospital, Ashford’s William Harvey and Margate’s QEQM, says it was turned down for £324 million worth of capital investment funds from NHS England in December and has now had to take the drastic step of applying for emergency cash to keep its services running safely.

The money would go towards “priority” upgrades including boiler upgrades, window replacements and improvements to pavements, roads and a fire alarm system.

The rejected capital bid included £6.5 million for new observation wards to reduce overcrowding in emergency departments, which has now been funded through another grant, and £14.9 million for new operating theatres in Canterbury for planned hip and knee surgery.

A further £302.7 million was also requested for investment in east Kent’s three main hospitals ahead of a shake-up of emergency healthcare.

Ashford William Harvey Hospital.Picture: Paul Amos
Ashford William Harvey Hospital.Picture: Paul Amos

A spokesman for east Kent hospitals said: “As part of our ongoing maintenance programme we already invest over £2 million every year in maintaining this large and complex estate. But our estate comprises over 100 buildings, some of which date back to the 1930s.

“Therefore, we have bid for £34 million for priority upgrades to our hospital infrastructure.”

The bid has been backed by Faversham MP Helen Whately, who said: “Canterbury hospital is crumbling and William Harvey in Ashford has its fair share of maintenance problems, too. We desperately need investment to make sure the buildings are safe for patients, and a decent working environment for staff.

“The hospitals are spending £2 million a year on maintenance and I’m reassured that they are properly recording incidents when patients have been put at risk of harm so they can sort them out quickly.

Faversham.Faversham MP Helen Whately..Picturew: Paul Amos. (6544346)
Faversham.Faversham MP Helen Whately..Picturew: Paul Amos. (6544346)

“The emergency funding could help fix the maintenance backlog, but it will only be a temporary solution – patients in Kent need a new, modern hospital.”

Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield, who has also campaigned for a new hospital in the city, said: “These health and safety incidents across our local hospitals in east Kent are desperately worrying. This is what happens when an NHS is not receiving the real level of funding that it desperately needs.

“We need a radical plan for NHS funding that is fit for this century. I’m afraid that under this Conservative government our hospitals are failing and, as we see here, literally crumbling.

Rosie Duffield MP at Kent & Canterbury Hospital. Picture: Chris Davey FM4895159. (6544435)
Rosie Duffield MP at Kent & Canterbury Hospital. Picture: Chris Davey FM4895159. (6544435)

“Plans to reconfigure our acute services locally are moving slowly. After discussions I have had with CCG chiefs last week, it now seems that any plans regarding the options available are unlikely to go out to formal public consultation before the autumn of this year at the earliest. This is much later than everyone has been anticipating.

“In the meantime, we have cupboards falling off walls, people sweltering in rooms without good air supply and surgeons threatening to cancel operations because of record high temperatures.

“I have long-been calling for a new, modern hospital in Canterbury and these recent reports underline the need for strategic building plans and bold innovative thinking throughout east Kent.”

However the Save Our NHS in Kent campaign group has said a further cash injection alone will not solve the trust's underlying problems.

Spokesman Carly Jeffrey said: “Upkeep of our hospitals should not be dependent on these intermittent grants from NHS England that have to be 'won' in a bidding process against other areas. Nor should the upkeep of our hospitals be dependent upon implementation of major reconfigurations such as the upcoming east Kent proposals that will see major cuts to A&E and maternity in the area.

“Trusts should not have to accept top-down reorganisations in exchange for the cash they need. It does not serve NHS patients, and it is not how public money should be used.”

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