Published: 00:01, 27 April 2016
Doctors and nurses from France could be drafted in to help reduce hospital waiting times in Medway.
Health bosses are exploring the idea of using staff from Calais Hospital to tackle a backlog of 10,000 patients.
The idea has been put forward as one of the options to reduce waiting lists and give patients more choice.
A report to the board of Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which buys health services for the Towns, reveals there has been a large increase in the number of patients waiting more than 18 weeks, especially for orthopaedic and dermatology treatment.
The CCG estimates there are 10,000 people waiting more than 18 weeks.
Project manager Michelle Jee said in the report: “In 2015/16 Medway NHS Foundation Trust experienced significant capacity challenges, leading to widespread failure to deliver waiting times under 18 week for Medway patients. This is not likely to be resolved until the end of 2016/17.”
The proposals comes after NHS South Kent Coast CCG, which covers Shepway, Dover and Deal, agreed a deal with the hospital in Calais to allow NHS patients to travel to France for surgery.
On Friday, Timothy Brierley, from Lyminge, near Folkestone became the first NHS patient to undergo surgery at the hospital, which has trained staff in English.
A Medway CCG spokesman stressed that patients from the Towns would not be expected to travel across the Channel.
She said: “Medway CCG is committed to improving choice and access to healthcare for our patients.
"We are working with our partners, NHS England and Medway Foundation Trust, to explore ways in which additional capacity can be developed locally.
“These discussions are at a preliminary stage and form part of the CCG’s Patient Choice plan in line with national Patient Choice guidelines.
“No decisions have yet been made in relation to the possible use of clinical staff from Calais Hospital, and this is only one of a number of options currently being discussed.
“If partners agree that this is part of a realistic and cost-effective solution that can improve patient outcomes, we will be seeking to deploy Calais staff locally, rather than sending our patients for treatment in France.”
If the idea went ahead, waiting times for Medway Maritime would be tackled but the medics would be working at other sites, rather than the hospital itself.