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Parish council goes into battle over DMC Healthcare changes at Sheppey hospital

The decision to end the contract with DMC Healthcare which runs a GP surgery and walk-in centre at Sheppey Community Hospital discriminates against Islanders, says a parish council.

Minster Parish Council has written an open letter to Bill Millar, the director of primary care at NHS Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group, telling him to reinstate services due to be closed at the end of this month.

Sheppey Community Hospital in Plover Road, Minster
Sheppey Community Hospital in Plover Road, Minster

Parish clerk Trish Hamilton said: “Put bluntly, the parish council believes the loss of the GP service at Sheppey Community Hospital for regular non-urgent patients is discriminative and could have serious health consequences.”

She pointed out the Island has higher mortality and morbidity rates than other parts of Kent because of cases of cancer, cardiovascular diseases and chronic respiratory disease and added: “Making it harder for people to access treatment will exclude a large percentage of the population from enjoying good health.”

She said the area already suffered from disability, deprivation, gender and age inequalities and stressed healthcare was recognised in the UK as a “basic right”. “Quite frankly, we are disappointed with the CCG’s plan to disperse DMC patients.”

DMC patients have been told to sign with other surgeries by October 31.

The CCG says the walk-in centre, which it wants to upgrade to an urgent care centre at the hospital in Plover Road, Minster, will remain but has not yet said who will run it from November 1.

Entrance to Sheppey Community Hospital in Plover Road, Minster
Entrance to Sheppey Community Hospital in Plover Road, Minster

The parish council said asking patients to find an alternative GP is “not an option” as other surgeries were already “operating beyond capacity.” It adds that Swale has one of the highest patient to GP ratios in the country leading to difficulty seeing a doctor.

It warned the change was a “retrograde step” and has asked to meet health bosses.

In a survey about patient satisfaction at the DMC Healthcare’s GP surgery at Sheppey Community Hospital 37.9% - (886) - said they were “very satisfied.”

A further 30.9% (274) said they were “satisfied” with the service and 14.3% were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied.

All of the surgery’s 9,000 patients were sent a letter by Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group, which plans and pays for the area’s healthcare, asking them to be part of the survey.

Sheppey Community Hospital in Plover Road, Minster
Sheppey Community Hospital in Plover Road, Minster

Of those, 902 (11%) agreed to answer the questions.

Forty-one people (4.6%) said they were “very dissatisfied” by the service and 108 were “dissatisfied”.

Patients were also asked what they wanted from a surgery. The top reply was the ability get through to someone on the phone. The second was time to talk to “explain things”.

Patients also wanted to get an appointment on the same day and to be able to renew prescriptions easily. They were asked which other surgeries they would visit. When asked to attend a meeting to discuss the changes, 12 turned up.

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