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Health shake-up planned for Sheppey Community Hospital as DMC contract ditched

Health bosses are planning a radical shake-up for Sheppey's community hospital by creating an urgent care centre on the premises in Plover Road, Minster, it is believed.

But the move also means DMC Healthcare will lose its contract, leaving more than 9,000 Islanders potentially without a doctor.

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

The 40-bed hospital currently has a minor injuries unit open 9am to 9pm, an X-ray department, blood test team, out-patient clinics, a pharmacy, two GP surgeries and a walk-in GP service run by DMC Healthcare.

The Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which plans and pays for the area's healthcare, has been asking patients on Sheppey and in Sittingbourne their views about a combined hub.

It is understood it could deflect complaints that the Island's nearest 24-hour accident and emergency centre is a 35-minute drive to Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham 20 miles away.

Sheppey is already suffering from an acute shortage of GPs despite a sharp increase in population, thanks to new house-builds and an influx of holidaymakers using the Island as a staycation.

The CCG has told DMC it will no longer need to provide routine GP services in the hospital after October 31 but could still be expected to provide the walk-in service.

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

It follows the CCG's decision last August to strip DMC of running three practices in Medway at St Werburgh, Hoo; St Mary’s Island surgery in Chatham and Kings Family Practice, Chatham, following visits from the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Swale had Britain's highest ratio of patients to doctors in the last published figures. The CCG refuses to release updated information.

A spokesman for the CCG said: “DMC Healthcare currently holds a contract to run a GP practice and GP walk-in service as separate services from Sheppey Community Hospital, Minster. The contract to provide these services ends on October 31, 2021.

"We will be writing to all registered patients of the GP practice next week (commencing August 16) to give them full information about their future care. Patients can be assured that access to regular GP services, such as consultations and prescriptions, will remain in place at all times.

"The CCG will also ensure that a GP walk-in-service continues on the island."

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

On its website it says it as "recently engaged" with patients of DMC Sheppey Healthcare to "help shape the future service".

It said patients needing appointments and prescriptions should continue to contact the practice and stressed the changes would not affect the walk-in service or Minster Medical Centre which also has a GP service in the building.

The decision appears to have caught DMC bosses on the hop. Rosemary Smart, the head of primary care at the health provider, has been forced to post a message to patients on social media.

Using Facebook she said: "I can confirm that with effect from 1st November 2021, DMC will no longer hold the contract for GP services on the Isle of Sheppey; a contract which it has held for the past 12 years.

"The CCG have made the decision not to renew the contract with DMC for GP services although the future for the walk-in element of the service remains at the time of writing unclear.

DMC's Facebook message to patients
DMC's Facebook message to patients

"DMC, have to date, been given very little information which we can pass onto our patients. We have asked the CCG for further formal communications and we will continue to press for this. We hope to have this soon and once we have this will share widely with our patients."

The decision on the future of the hospital is expected to be made next Thursday by the CCG's Primary Care Commissioning Committee.

Patients with questions should email Kmccg.primarycare@nhs.net or call 01634 335095.

Read more: All the latest news from Sheppey

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