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Canterbury 'super' hospital plan reviewed by Kent County Council (KCC) and Medway Council's health scrutiny committee


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Controversial plans to transform hospital services in east Kent are being reviewed by NHS leaders.

Kent County Council (KCC) and Medway Council's health scrutiny committees yesterday reviewed £460 million plans to transform A&E and specialist care in the east of the county.

CGI of the 'super' hospital planned for Canterbury
CGI of the 'super' hospital planned for Canterbury

Kent County Council (KCC) and Medway Council's health scrutiny committees yesterday reviewed £460 million plans to transform A&E and specialist care in the east of the county.

The Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said it is still investigating the "credibility" of two options ahead of a public consultation.

County councillors have said it remains "difficult" to decide which one to go with.

Rachel Jones, who is the CCG's executive director of strategy and population health, said: "We need to market test the two options and really understand that both are viable and deliverable, before we go to a public consultation.

"I think that is to the benefit of the whole population of east Kent."

The two options on the table for east Kent
The two options on the table for east Kent

The funding bid to transform emergency hospital care in the east of the county was initially made to the Department for Health and Social Care last October.

The cash would come from a £3.7 billion pot which the government has set aside to deliver 40 “new” hospitals across England by 2030.

A decision on Kent's submission was expected in the spring of 2022. However, the government has delayed making a final verdict due to the Covid pandemic.

The "super" hospital proposal would see a more modern facility built on farmland next to the ageing Kent and Canterbury Hospital, in Ethelbert Road.

Developers Quinn Estates would build the shell of the hospital for free as part of a wider housing development of 2,000 homes on surrounding land, with the NHS having to find the money to equip it.

If the 'super' hospital were to be built, the William Harvey would lose its A&E
If the 'super' hospital were to be built, the William Harvey would lose its A&E

The five-storey building would host a major emergency unit for east Kent, with specialist services such as heart and stroke care centralised in Canterbury.

A&E departments at Ashford’s William Harvey and the QEQM in Margate would be downgraded to urgent treatment centres, but locals would still use the hospitals for the majority of their care.

Kent and Medway CCG chiefs have described it as an "innovative" scheme.

However, concerns were raised by Cllr Paul Bartlett (Con), who is KCC's health scrutiny chair, about the "viability" of the proposal.

At yesterday's meeting, the Ashford county councillor said: "I have never been convinced that is going to be adequately tested."

Cllr Paul Bartlett
Cllr Paul Bartlett

He expressed caution over the "reliability" of the plans, saying: "I am not sure it is credible to rely on private funding to deliver a larger hospital."

The Kent NHS' other option includes centralising specialist care at Ashford's William Harvey Hospital, with A&Es at both Ashford and Margate hospitals expanded. Meanwhile, 24 hour urgent care would continue K&C.

Both will be scrutinised more closely in a forthcoming public consultation, although the timeline for this is not known.

A final decision for funding is expected from the government by the end of 2022.

The QEQM Hospital in Margate
The QEQM Hospital in Margate

At a previous meeting, Ms Jones underlined how vital the £460 million is to the future of healthcare in east Kent.

“If we do not get this money, there is no other pot. This is it," she said.

“We will lose this opportunity for the foreseeable future.”

A CCG spokesman previously told KentOnline that once the public consultation is finally launched, it is expected to last 12 weeks.

The existing Kent & Canterbury Hospital could be downgraded
The existing Kent & Canterbury Hospital could be downgraded

The spokesman said: "We share the frustration people have over the time it is taking, however these are complex proposals that would affect a wide range of services and require a very significant investment."

Carly Jeffrey of Save Our NHS in Kent said: "It is still our position that both options on offer are unsatisfactory. Centralising stroke, A&E and consultant-led maternity in Canterbury is bad for those that live in the Thanet and Ashford areas, and could even worsen wait times for Canterbury residents.

"The option that moves services to Ashford is bad for those in Canterbury, and it is still unclear what level of service will remain at QEQM hospital under that option. Various studies show that centralising A&E does not bring about any improvements to mortality or disability outcomes, and in some cases, worsens mortality outcomes.

"Outcomes tend to worsen if the journey time rises about 25 minutes, which will be the case for at least one of our districts in east Kent if either of these plans proceed. We are also concerned about the additional pressure on the struggling ambulance service and the increase in already appalling health inequalities in deprived areas like Thanet."

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