Published: 17:54, 10 July 2020
| Updated: 11:57, 13 July 2020
An alternative NHS provider has stepped in to fill the void left by a skincare and cancer service after its contract was suspended over management fears.
The speciality healthcare provider offers treatment for skin cancer patients as well as care for a range of conditions including rashes, lesions and lumps.
It was awarded the contract following a short selection process involving patients, which was led by the Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
However, the CCG has since suspended the agreement after health chiefs raised concerns about the way the service is managed and its ability to meet waiting times.
It was estimated around 1,000 were potentially at risk and needed to be seen urgently but upon review of the data this has since been revised to 1,855 patients.
The CCG has promptly put in place an alternative provider in the form of the 18 Week Support team, made up of senior NHS consultants, who specialise in clearing existing backlogs.
Today, the support team has started the process of contacting affected patients and booking them into clinics which will be run with the support of the West Kent Dermatology service.
CCG chief Wilf Williams said: “Since we took the decision to suspend DMC Healthcare’s contract for dermatology services, we have been working hard to put alternative provision in place to best meet patient needs.
“There are 1,855 patients who need procedures and these patients are being contacted and booked into clinics which will begin on Friday, July 10.
“West Kent Dermatology Service will also see new routine patients once the priority patients have been treated."
The service is already up and running and has the capacity to see more than 500 new patients per week.
Services will be led by expert consultant dermatologists with a team of more than 20 consultants available to deliver services.
Patients with newly diagnosed cancer and inflammatory skin disease will be seen and linked to other specialist services as required.
This will include skin cancer support services provided at Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead and oncology services provided by Maidstone Hospital.
Multidisciplinary clinics – which bring a range of clinicians from different specialities together – have already begun to ensure these patients are seen as quickly as possible, the CCG has said.
Both the West Kent Dermatology Service and the temporary service being delivered in north Kent will be supported by a parent provider in the form of the Sussex Community Dermatology Service (SCDS).
This existing provider runs services across Sussex, Surrey and Kent and the CCG says it is confident in its ability to run services which it has done for more than 10 years.
The CCG has asked GPs who see patients that have been waiting a long time to consider whether they believe any delays to their treatment may have caused harm.
Mr Williams said: “Although we are still in the process of clinically triaging and validating data provided by DMC Healthcare, we know there is a large waiting list of patients who need to be assessed so we are planning provision for them.
"Once we have clearer data, we will put plans in place to treat patients as quickly as possible.
"It has been important to prioritise the high risk patients which is what we have been concentrating on."
DMC responded in a statement to say it was disappointed by the suspension which came just a year after it had taken over the service and mid pandemic.
The health care provider, which is led by Dr Nadeem Moghal, said they were given just seven weeks notice to implement the contract and had inherited a "significant undeclared backlog" of more than 8,000 patients.
"We know there is a large waiting list of patients who need to be assessed so we are planning provision for them."
Despite this DMC said it had been working hard to transform the quality of the service, providing more than 25,000 appointments in this time.
It added that national guidance on Covid-19 had been followed and it was working closely with cancer patients to ensure their treatment continued to be affectively managed.
In a statement, DMC said: "Senior clinicians have reviewed all those waiting, using a harm review process, ensuring all those waiting are safe.
"The review showed that 99.6% of patients were shown to have no risk and 0.4% were shown to have potential moderate risk."
The provider apologised for any "perceived risks to patient safety and shortcomings in the provision of timely data", adding it felt "high volumes of quality service delivery had been provided in a safe way, with good levels of patient satisfaction".
In the meantime DMC said it had been working with the CCG to ensure patients get the service they need from the interim provider during the period of suspension.
More by this authorSean Delaney
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