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Fate of East Kent NHS hospitals could take seven years to finalise

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It could be seven years until the fate of healthcare in east Kent is finalised - with bosses this week admitting there is “still some way” to go before a key decision is made.

Top clinicians are currently considering a huge reshuffle of services at the Kent & Canterbury (K&C), William Harvey in Ashford, and QEQM in Margate.

As it stands, there are two options on the table which must be singled down to one.

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The East Kent Trust has five sites including William Harvey, QEQM and Kent & Canterbury
The East Kent Trust has five sites including William Harvey, QEQM and Kent & Canterbury

However, there is still a lengthy step-by-step process that needs to be followed before the choice is made.

The first option being explored by the NHS would see all specialist services and major trauma unit be centralised in Ashford, with the K&C being heavily downgraded.

Option two would lead to the creation of a new “super hospital” in Canterbury which would house east Kent’s sole A&E centre.

Developer Mark Quinn has offered to build the shell of the hospital in exchange for permission to build 2,000 homes, and campaigners say there are “good vibes” from doctors who would favour its construction.

Rosie Duffield MP says people are "fed up" with the long wait
Rosie Duffield MP says people are "fed up" with the long wait

About 100 clinicians and members of the public attended an invite-only event last Thursday to review some of the information being used to evaluate the options.

The feedback from the get-together will then be used by a shortlisting panel when they meet in September.

Canterbury and Whitstable MP Rosie Duffield says her constituents are “fed up” with the long wait and called on Stephen Hammond MP, the Minister of State for Health, to confirm when a public consultation will eventually begin.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday, she said: “It’s now been almost 18 months since health commissioners proposed the two options for acute medical care in east Kent be put forward for public consultation. My constituents, particularly those in rural areas, are simply fed up with waiting for a new hospital.”

Mr Hammond said he would write to Ms Duffield when he gets the answer.

Following Thursday’s discussion with doctors and interested parties, Caroline Selkirk, managing director of east Kent’s four clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), said: “It was great to hear from patients, residents and local clinicians.

“The event helped us to test some of our work before shortlisting takes place. There is still some way to go before any final decisions are made and there will be lots more opportunities for everyone in east Kent to find out more and have their say, including a formal public consultation.”

The final outcome will be decided upon by the chairmen at east Kent’s four CCGs. But even when a decision is made there will still be a long wait before it is implemented.

Ashford William Harvey Hospital
Ashford William Harvey Hospital

On its website, the Kent and Medway NHS group warns: “Implementing either of the current medium list of options would take several years, dependent on which option emerges as the preferred choice - potentially five to seven years from the start of consultation.”

Former Canterbury City Council leader Simon Cook, who attended Thursday’s meeting, says he came away feeling positive about the “super hospital” bid.

“To me, the Canterbury option comes out ahead in terms of patient experience,” he said.

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