Published: 08:20, 06 September 2020
| Updated: 08:34, 06 September 2020
Boris Johnson is being urged to back plans for new hospital in Canterbury and reverse the “unacceptable standard” of healthcare across east Kent.
A concerned group of leading health figures and campaigners have written to the Prime Minister, who previously backed building a new hospital in the city.
They highlight the previously-high Covid-19 infection and death rates, the ongoing handling of the under-scrutiny baby death scandal and the long distances required to reach an A&E centre as key issues which need fixing.
The future of East Kent Hospitals Trust is currently under revision, with top doctors weighing up two potential options.
Confirmation on the reshuffle - which will result in either the Kent & Canterbury being further downgraded or reconfigured as a super hospital with a new A&E - is still years down the line.
But a group of fed-up campaigners - comprising a former senior nurse and past president of the World Medical Association - are fearful of problems escalating want Mr Johnson to step in now and show his support for the Canterbury-centric option.
During last year’s Conservative Party Conference, the PM did seemingly back the bid by making a shock pledge to build a new hospital in the city.
Though his surprising announcement was later conceded as a “mistake” by fellow Tories, the group of campaigners writing to No.10 are hopeful the Government can back the project - and stress that such action would be “welcomed with heartfelt thanks by the whole of east Kent”.
“You do recognise the need for a new hospital at Canterbury,” they write.
“Though others might have felt your judgement at the time a little premature, in our opinion your assessment of the situation was timely and absolutely correct.”
Building a super-hospital in Canterbury has long been discussed and developer Mark Quinn’s offer to build its shell still stands. In sending their letter to Downing Street, local MPs and Canterbury City Council, the group of individuals - Barbara Armstrong, Peggy Pryer, Prof Richard Scase, Martin Vye and William James Appleyard - say the trust’s performance is a “serious situation” which needs addressing urgently.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has already taken immediate enforcement action against the trust over its handling of the coronavirus crisis, but the group suggest the problems are more deeply-rooted than just the recent pandemic.
“Over the years CQC reports have consistently raised issues over poor management, though the staff have always been graded as ‘good’,” they say. “Working in this dysfunctional environment has increased staff burnout, causing poor patient care and a greater number of avoidable medical errors.
“The current system has to change.
“The paediatric services have been found unsafe recently, and there are continuing concerns over the maternity services which are now under external review,” they said.
“This unsafe and wasteful situation is being allowed to drift with an apparent lack of any vision or any sense of urgency. We are appealing to you for decisive leadership to give a clear sense of direction and start to reverse this downward trend, and initiate immediate improvement on the current unacceptable standard of healthcare for the local population.”
In the letter, they also highlight to the prime minister how the city’s soon-to-be-open Kent and Medway Medical School - a joint project between the two main universities - will help with staff recruitment and retention and the area.
A spokeswoman for East Kent Hospitals said "keeping our patients and staff safe is always our priority".
She said: "We have been working hard to improve our maternity services, have made changes to improve our children services and infection control across all our hospitals to ensure that patients can get the care they need.
"For example, we have expanded the emergency department and critical care facilities at Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate to create more space to see patients and increased our treatment areas at William Harvey Hospital, Ashford.”