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Coronavirus Kent: Low numbers at Canterbury, Herne Bay and Whitstable 'hot sites' despite huge demand expected

Demand for Covid-19 treatment centres across the district may have been vastly overestimated as it is revealed few patients are using them.

The facilities - known as hot sites - were launched in Canterbury, Herne Bay and Whitstable to assess those with coronavirus symptoms.

Staff at the new assessment centre in Herne Bay. Picture: Jeremy Carter
Staff at the new assessment centre in Herne Bay. Picture: Jeremy Carter

Together they have a combined daily capacity to treat more than 400 patients, but are each welcoming single-figure numbers every day.

Doctors at one set up at Herne Bay’s Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital say an average of four people are arriving every 24 hours - despite it being designed to see 150.

Meanwhile, health bosses estimate centres at Estuary View in Whitstable and the University of Kent sports centre in Canterbury are being used by fewer than 10 patients per day.

The facilities were opened this month to assess and treat people with symptoms referred after calls to 111 or their local medical centre, keeping them away from normal GP surgeries.

Herne Bay Primary Care Network clinical director Dr Jeremy Carter says eight is the most referrals it has had in any one day.

Staff at the drive-thru hot site. Picture: Dr John Ribchester
Staff at the drive-thru hot site. Picture: Dr John Ribchester

“Mercifully thus far, we have seen nowhere near the worst-case predictions, and this is wonderful news for our patients,” he said.

“It was essential to create the capacity in our assessment centre, but if it remains unused, I will be very pleased as it will mean more of our patients are remaining well.”

Whitstable Medical Practice executive partner Dr John Ribchester believes they overestimated the demand for the hot sites.

“We all braced ourselves, but the numbers, certainly to date, haven’t been anything like the number predicted in the whole of Kent and Medway,” he said.

“Everybody’s numbers are way down on the predictions. I think, with the benefit of hindsight, we’ve probably overprepared.

Dr John Ribchester says the centres have received few referrals from NHS hotline 111
Dr John Ribchester says the centres have received few referrals from NHS hotline 111

“In Whitstable, we probably get less than 10 each day and the Canterbury one is not as busy as predicted, either; I think they’re down in single figures.”

But Dr Ribchester says the centres have received few referrals from NHS hotline 111, as it tends to direct callers to hospital.

Despite its lack of patients, Dr Carter insists the Herne Bay facility has not been a drain on GP resources.

“We’re certainly not wasting capacity,” he stressed. “We have one doctor and one nurse seeing patients at half-hour intervals.

“Each consultation is lengthy as it requires putting on personal protective equipment, then decontaminating after.

Dr Jeremy Carter believes the figures may be a reflection of residents’ willingness to observe social distancing protocols
Dr Jeremy Carter believes the figures may be a reflection of residents’ willingness to observe social distancing protocols

“We have a system where we can expand capacity at the site almost immediately if needed, with standby doctors and nurses ready to go.

“We will keep that capacity until we’re told we can scale back on it or that it’s not needed.”

Dr Carter believes the figures may be a reflection of residents’ willingness to observe social distancing protocols.

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