Published: 00:02, 13 July 2017
Patients in east Kent waiting months for routine surgery are missing out on the chance to be seen within weeks at a modern Calais hospital.
Centre Hospitalier de Calais has been geared up to take on hundreds of NHS patients from Deal, Dover and Folkestone since January last year, but in that time it has seen only two.
According to health bosses at the French hospital, of the other handful of referrals from GPs – including from The Cedars Surgery in Walmer – none have come to fruition, with appointments suddenly found at over-stretched Kent hospitals instead.
General manager of the Calais hospital Martin Trelcat questions whether patients are even being told they have the option to be treated in France.
In 2015, the South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which covers Deal, Sandwich and Dover, signed an agreement with the French hospital giving NHS patients needing routine surgery the choice to be seen in France, which would help slash waiting times in this area.
The Calais facility has no waiting list and patients can be seen within weeks,
The hospital installed English signage, designed part of its website to cater for British patients and trained doctors and nurses in English medical terminology.
But frustrated bosses say it has been a waste of time and energy and instead they always have five to six empty rooms available.
Mr Trelcat says they can see patients from Kent as soon as next week if needed, but no one is taking up the option.
“We signed the agreement in January 2016 and planned to welcome around 100 patients in two years and within four years, 400 patients,” he said.
“Instead we saw one last year and one this year.
“We have done everything to welcome NHS patients with a high standard of care.
“Patients can be seen next week if they want to be. Appointments are based around patient availability. We are ready to take them now.”
He says it is hugely frustrating when referrals are made to Calais and then cancelled at last minute when a Kent hospital space comes up.
"Patients can be seen next week if they want to be... appointments are based around patient availability" - Martin Trelcat
“When we get a referral we make the appointment with our doctors, we go through it all with the patient, we help with any translation – it takes a lot of energy,” he said.
“We are then very disappointed when they cancel.
“It is like they are able to jump the line when the hospital in Kent finds out they are coming here, which is not fair on other NHS patients.”
The CCG can contract appointments out to either Calais or East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, which is responsible for the QEQM in Margate, William Harvey in Ashford and Kent & Canterbury.
It is understood that the east Kent trust is not made aware if Calais is asked to carry out the appointment.
The trust would not comment on the Calais claims but says the agreement between them and the CCG does not mean any less money for local services.
Rob Hustwayte, CCG spokesman, says patients have a right to choose where they receive NHS treatment.
“We would encourage local people to consider the options of using hospitals in France and England when discussing treatment with their GP,” he said.
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