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Huge demand to return blood test services to Victoria Hospital, Deal, survey shows


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Three-quarters of patients needing blood tests say the loss of the service at their town hospital has caused problems.

Nearly all the respondents to a consultation said that they wanted the checks brought back there and almost nobody said the replacement system, using GP surgeries, worked.

Deal's Victoria Hospital
Deal's Victoria Hospital

Many others told of trouble getting through to surgeries to book appointments, delays in securing appointments and having to instead travel miles elsewhere to get checked.

Those were the findings in a report by campaigners demanding the return of blood tests at the Victoria Hospital in Deal.

The community consultation by the Deal Hospital Blood Action Team has followed the end of the phlebotomy service at the London Road hospital last October.

The group's report concluded: "The new arrangements are not supported by residents and there is significant evidence they are creating serious health care and health equality outcomes for residents in Deal, Walmer and affected villages.

"An urgent review is needed to address the important issues raised in this report and reinstate adequate high quality accessible and efficient local phlebotomy services for the area."

Protesters met at Deal Pier on last November to campaign against the closure of blood tests at Deal hospital. Photo: Tony Grist
Protesters met at Deal Pier on last November to campaign against the closure of blood tests at Deal hospital. Photo: Tony Grist

Kent Community Heathcare NHS Trust stopped the service at Victoria Hospital last autumn.

The survey, which had more than 3,200 responses, found that 97% of those asked wanted blood tests returned there.

A total 72% of the service users asked said the new system was not working well for them and their families.

Exactly 55.2% said they had delays in getting blood test appointments at GP surgeries and 41% said they had problems contacting their surgery to make appointments.

A total 16.5% argued that they had delays in getting medication or treatment due to the wait for a blood test appointment.

The five members of Deal Hospital Blood Action Team at the candlelit vigil in February. Picture: Office of Natalie Elphicke
The five members of Deal Hospital Blood Action Team at the candlelit vigil in February. Picture: Office of Natalie Elphicke

The impact was reported to be particularly affecting those with cancer, diabetes and long-term health conditions.

It took 40% of residents travelling to take a blood test further afield more than two hours to get there and back, with 5% having round trips of more than four hours.

The new system was supported by just 1.7% of respondents.

It also affected older, less mobile and poorer residents, who were less able to travel to get blood tests out of the area.

'I'm appalled at the arrogance of taking away a much-needed service...'

Patients and relatives were quoted in the report giving their views and telling of problems they were now having.

One said: “Deal Hospital has always offered a very efficient service, the GP surgeries struggle to see patients.

"I'm appalled at the sheer arrogance of taking away a much-needed service from this area, which is rapidly rising in population growth.”

One man said: “My wife has cancer and sometimes is ordered to get things at short notice or risk delays to treatment.

"This has included a blood test. (The) GP was unable to do this so this meant a hospital trip. Because she is unable to drive this meant I had to take the morning off work to go to QEQM (Margate).”

The vigil and protest in Deal in February. Photo: Office of Natalie Elphicke MP
The vigil and protest in Deal in February. Photo: Office of Natalie Elphicke MP

One parent said: "I recently asked for a blood test for my child and was told I would have to take him to Dover or Margate for this as the surgery cannot provide this service for children.

"Previously my child has been able to have one at Deal hospital, on the way to school, which was quick and easy.”

Another patient simply said: “Have made over 50 calls to (the) GP and all I get is an answer machine.”

The Deal Hospital Blood Action Team's survey took place from February 25 to April 25.

The consultation was launched with a candelit vigil at Deal Pier.

'I hope we will see this poorly considered decision reversed...'

Just after the proposal to end the service at Victoria Hospital was revealed residents held a demonstration through the High Street and after that a petition with more than 3,000 signatures was raised.

DHBAT consists of Dover and Deal MP Natalie Elphicke, Deal councillors Trevor Bond and Tony Grist and local health campaigners Marsha Horne and Anne Matthews.

Mrs Elphicke said: "The new GP only blood test arrangements are failing older people, less mobile and poorer people in our community.

"Serious and life impacting illnesses like cancer and diabetes are not being properly catered for locally. It is shocking. Improvements in local healthcare need to be made immediately.

"The NHS bosses and local GPs need to tell us what they are going to do about it, including putting needed local services back in Deal hospital."

Ms Horne said: "It was a young cancer patient who broke the news about the closure of blood services at Deal hospital and his story was my inspiration to begin the fight.

"I am deeply saddened and angry to see the impact this change of services is having on so many people who desperately need easy-to-access, timely blood testing services.

"I sincerely hope that we will now see this poorly considered decision reversed and the services reinstated at our much-loved community hospital.”

The consultation report has also been sent to Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group for its board meeting on May 26.

Caroline Selkirk, chief operating officer at Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “All general practices in the Deal area now provide phlebotomy services, with the total capacity and operating hours now greater than before the changes.

"Some initial problems when the services moved from Victoria hospital have now been addressed; such as clarifying that cancer patients can get their regular blood tests from their general practice and do not need to travel elsewhere.

"We welcome the local feedback from Natalie Elphicke’s engagement and are currently reviewing the report.”

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