Published: 11:56, 24 November 2021
| Updated: 11:58, 24 November 2021
Protesters are demanding the re-instatement of blood clinics at Deal hospital.
Holding signs reading 'bring back local blood tests now' and 'they didn't ask us', the campaigners had met at Deal Pier for the 10am rally on Saturday.
The 150 strong crowd then walked through the High Street.
The protest was organised following the closure of the phlebotomy service at the London Road hospital, which was axed at the end of October.
All blood tests are now to be carried out at patient's registered GP surgeries.
But there are fears the already stretched surgeries will not be able to cope with more appointments, meaning longer waiting times.
Tony Grist, an organiser of the rally, said: "Mounting annoyance at the closure of the blood clinic at Deal hospital has led to the community joining together to hold a rally.
"There wasn’t any public consultation, in fact all GP surgeries received no information regarding closure or asked opinions.
"On average 150 patients used the clinic weekly, from cancer patients, expectant mothers, mental health patients, patients with difficult veins etc.
"Now with the closure patients have to make a surgery booking, not so easy with Covid jabs, flu jabs, annual reviews etc.
"Alternatively travel to Buckland Hospital in Dover - a half day round trip on public transport, or a taxi journey with a round trip costing at least £45.
"Deal and the parishes make up 33,000 people. As our community rapidly grows, mainly with retirees, so our services diminish."
Mr Grist, who is a town councillor for Deal, added: "As the rally marched through the High Street many shopkeepers and shoppers came outside to see what was happening, and then adding their support with clapping hands in agreement with the principal of the rally.
"This was the first part of a prolonged campaign to have the blood clinic reinstated."
Mr Grist is also organising a petition "demanding the reinstatement of this fundamental service to the community".
Anne Matthews, who spoke at the rally, said: "I think the key issue is that the service was cancelled without public consultation and did not think of the 150 patients on average each week which used the service.
"The easiest way to resolve this for patients and clinicians alike would have been to fund the services and remain at the hospital instead of allegedly giving each GP practice money.
"GPs are overrun now with long waiting lists for doctor and nurse appointments, including blood tests.
"It is unlikely the extra staff would only do blood tests thereby will not become a specialist.
"The closing of the unit has raised the anxiety levels on all people who used the service at Deal Hospital - the ill, vulnerable, elderly, disabled, carers and the young.
"The CCG mission statement is to treat people locally - we have a hospital but they are unable to even do blood tests. Ridiculous situation."
Deal resident Marsha Horne attended the rally and said: "It was wonderful to see so many people attending the rally on Saturday, not only showing support for the issue but actively demonstrating their desire for the reinstatement of the much used and valuable phlebotomy service at Deal hospital."
The phlebotomy service at the hospital was previously run by Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust, but it stopped operating the service last month.
Similar changes happened in Herne Bay.
Following the rally, a spokesman from the Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group said: "We do not believe there is a need to provide additional phlebotomy as all general practices in the area are providing sufficient capacity."
MP for Dover and Deal, Natalie Elphicke, recently met with the chief executive of the Trust which runs the hospital to raise concerns about the changes to the blood testing service, and the future of the hospital.
Mrs Elphicke said: "The move of blood tests from Victoria Hospital to GP surgeries concerned some residents.
"I had already received assurances about funding and support for local GPs for this change, as well as confirmation that there is no need for anyone to travel outside of Deal for GP-requested blood tests.
"I have written to GPs to check if they have any concerns with the new arrangements.
"However, a number of people raised further concerns with me about services at Deal Hospital.
"So, I pressed health chiefs on their plans for Victoria Hospital. They told me the hospital is vital to the services they provide and that bloods moving to GP surgeries were part of a re-gig that has also affected other parts of Kent.
"Victoria Hospital is much loved community resource. I am glad to hear health bosses rightly say they see it as vital to their provision of local health services."