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BMI The Somerfield Hospital in Maidstone to close by mid-April

By Luke May

Thousands of patients are facing disruption after a private hospital announced it is set to close.

Staff at the Somerfield Hospital in London Road, Maidstone, were told yesterday the hospital will close its doors by mid-April.

Patients expecting to have cataracts surgery today have been turned away.

The BMI Somerfield Hospital, London Road, Maidstone. Picture: Martin Apps
The BMI Somerfield Hospital, London Road, Maidstone. Picture: Martin Apps

Michelle Yates, from East Peckham, had her appointment cancelled on Thursday, having only booked two weeks ago.

She said: "My appointment was due at 4pm, I got a phone call about 12pm saying they they've had to cancel. They didn't say why.

"I'm an NHS patient, all other hospitals have a high waiting list, I won't get an appointment until May onwards now.

"I'd rather they had just been honest and told me they were closing."

The hospital operator BMI Healthcare, said it was contacting all of its patients to re-arrange appointments.

It claims the 38-bed hospital has closed after losing patients to other healthcare providers, causing "financial challenges".

Competition includes KIMS Hospital, which opened on Kent Medical Campus, Maidstone in 2014.

But The Somerfield Hospital also cares for NHS patients.

More than 20,000 patients came through Somerfield Hospital's doors between July 2015 and June 2016.

Of the 3,205 inpatient and day case episodes recorded in that time, 60% were NHS funded.

Nearly a third of the 17,019 outpatient attendances were NHS funded, with the rest being private patients.

One NHS patient's wife, who asked not to be named, said: "It's cruel to be turning people away at the point of delivery.

"We selected Somerfield Hospital for cataracts surgery via the NHS, we checked the appointment was going ahead six days ago and there was no warning.

"It's absolutely disgusting."

BMI Healthcare Limited hopes to shut the hospital by the end of the month, but this could stretch into mid-April.

The hospital provides surgical procedures, family planning services, diagnostic and screening procedures as well as treating diseases, disorders and injuries.

Staff have started a 30-day consultation to decide their futures with the company.

In December 2016, the hospital employed the equivalent of 26 full time nurses as well as 10 health care assistants and operating department practitioners.

A spokesman said: "This has been a difficult decision to make, not least because the staff at the hospital have been so dedicated and take pride in the level of service they provide to patients.

"But we have seen new independent providers opening in the area and this has affected our activity and financial position. After looking at this in detail, we have concluded that the logical option would be to close.

"Our focus now remains on the delivery of excellent and safe healthcare, and on supporting our staff as we head to an end of March closure."

The hospital was rated good at its last inspection by the Care and Quality Commission, but was told safety required improvement.

Patients with queries can call 0800 096 2254, where they can provide their name and a hospital staff member will call them back.

However BMI Healthcare Ltd has asked patients to hold off calling.

A spokeswoman said: "This is so we can support patients with the earlier appointments first. We will be contacting every patient with an appointment."

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