Published: 00:00, 11 March 2017
Campaigners fighting to protect services at Kent and Canterbury Hospital have held a public meeting in the city today.
They say people are being “kept in the dark” over radical transformation plans which could result in serious consequences for the hospital.
As part of the proposals, the K&C could lose all its specialist services to either Ashford or Thanet, with an additional threat to its acute services as the Trust looks to cut 300 beds across Kent and Medway.
The future of its urgent care centre also remains in doubt following speculation the east Kent hospitals trust is set to close it temporarily amid a staffing crisis.
It would mean heart attack and stroke patients being diverted to the QEQM Hospital in Margate or Ashford’s William Harvey.
Trust chief executive Matthew Kershaw last week denied staff had been told the centre was shutting this spring, contrary to what employees have told KentOnline.
But the fears surrounding healthcare in the city have sparked a meeting today, which is being organised by the recently reformed Concern for Health in East Kent (CHEK).
The group has previously fought for the future of the K&C and stopped it being downgraded at the turn of the century, but could not save its A&E department.
It has now been revived following the release of the Trust’s new sustainability and transformation plan (STP), which will likely see specialist services relocated to just one of the Trust’s three main hospitals - speculated to be the William Harvey.
Critics say the move will essentially downgrade the K&C - which has no maternity unit or A&E services - to little more than a cottage hospital.
CHEK chairman Ken Rogers said: “The public are being kept in the dark, which has prompted us to organise this meeting.
“We believe that plans to cut 300 acute beds could result in the closure of Kent and Canterbury Hospital.
“The local Clinical Commissioning Group has been asked to explain the plans and receive feedback from the general public prior to publishing consultation documents.”
CHEK is urging the public to get involved in the debate over the future of the K&C.
In an open letter it says: “CHEK was very active campaigning for the acute hospitals in east Kent between 1997 and 2002. Our main purpose was to restrict the downgrading of the Kent and Canterbury hospital. We were very successful in keeping the Kent and Canterbury as a specialist diagnostic, acute teaching hospital.
“During those years there were many reports of patients in corridors for days, due to lack of beds. Indeed, CHEK was involved in secret filming over fears of the safety of patients, and for the pressure put on staff.
“We are lucky to have such brilliant staff in all our acute hospitals. There are so many stories of excellent life-saving care received by the people of east Kent.”
Mr Rogers added that the CHEK committee would not advocate the continuation of any service if it was deemed unsafe.
“We are questioning why we have got to the position we are in, why the trust has a lack of consultants and nurses and why there is a possibility that services could become unsafe,” he said.
Ida Linfield, member of the public, asked Paul Stevens, medical director of East Kent Hospitals trust: "My husband has been in Taylor Ward at k&c for up to three months. I have heard Taylor will close probably in May. Have staff been misinformed or will Taylor close?"
Mr Stevens began explaining that Taylor was an acute medical ward with 19 senior medical staff. He was then heckled by audience members saying "answer the question".
He added: "It's not as simple as yes or no but at the moment the answer is no. We have a major problem of staffing."
MP Julian Brazier said that he disagreed with health bosses planning for the next five years when there needed to be plans for generations. The audience applauded him when he said: "The bulk of services should be at a new hospital in or around Canterbury."
More by this authorGerry Warren
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