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Councillors back town centre hospital plan

County councillors have given their "strong support" to plans for a £20million community hospital in Dover town centre.

At a meeting of the KCC health overview and scrutiny committee, they said they wanted to see a central site in Dover developed for "a modern community hospital for the people of Dover and surrounding area by 2011".

Their decision followed a meeting in May when they called on the Primary Care Trust, the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Trust and Dover District Council to work together to find a site for "community hospital services".

Since then, a number of sites have been investigated, including the existing Buckland Hospital site.

But the authorities favour land next to Dover Health Centre in Maison Dieu Road, and councillors were told on Friday that because that site is already in public ownership, work on the new hospital could start next year and would be completed by 2011.

Reg Hansell, who is campaigning for a "proper hospital" on a greenfield site at Whitfield, said the Maison Dieu site would be landlocked, parking would be difficult and there would be congestion on the town's one-way system.

The committee was told that with land aquisition and infrastructure issues, work could not start on the Whitfield site until 2012.

County councillors have been urged to give their backing for new health services in Dover to be established in the town centre, rather than at Whitfield.

Members of the health overview and scrutiny committee, meeting on Friday, have been reviewing progress since they asked the health authorities and Dover District Council to work together to come up with proposals for community hospital services.

Since then £20million has been put on the table for the development next to Dover Health Centre at Maison Dieu Road.

The Eastern and Coastal Kent Primary Care Trust's Ann Sutton stressed that what was being proposed was not a polyclinic but would have a full range of services.

She said accessbility, deliverability and adaptability were the key factors.

"We have to be able to make a decision, deliver it and move on," she said.

The site at Whitfield, she said, would not be available until 2012, whereas the town centre site was within public ownership, work could start by July, 2009, and be completed by April, 2011.

In a passionate appeal, former PPIF PCT member Lorraine Sencicle said she was disappointed that the people of Dover had not welcomed the plans for a community hospital as she had hoped.

"Many people in Dover have been denied the right of making an informed decision," she said.

"We have £20million on the table for a community hospital which could be up and running within two years, and there are staff in existing hospitals who would be delighted to work in the town."

Reg Hansell, who organised an action group and a petition calling for an acute hospital for Dover, said the people of the district had been the poor relations in the league table of health provision for a number of years.

But, he said, the town centre was landlocked, congested and parking would be impossible.

The Whitfield site could provide unlimited expansion.

Dover MP Gwyn Prosser said he now favoured the town centre site, as most of the difficulties had been resolved.

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