The Concern for Health in East Kent group (CHEK) says accident and emergency departments in east Kent are in meltdown and acute services should be reopened in Canterbury even if it means calling in the Army Medical Corps to help.
CHEK chair Ken Rogers says patients are being left in corridors and ambulances lined up at QEQM and the William Harvey in Ashford while Kent & Canterbury Hospital is empty.
One person at A&E in Margate yesterday said staff were overwhelmed with 88 people and a 7 hour wait time. .
K&C Hospital does not have an accident and emergency department but does have an urgent care unit. However, since June patients needing emergency care for conditions like heart attack, stroke and pneumonia have been diverted straight to Ashford or Margate.
Scaling back services at Canterbury became necessary in March when it was revealed that trainee doctors were to be moved to Margate’s QEQM Hospital and the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford due to a shortage of consultants to oversee them at Kent and Canterbury.
‘Call in Army Medical Corps’
Mr Rogers said: “Enough is enough. We cannot let this go on. They need to re-open acute services at the Kent and Canterbury even if this means calling in the Army Medical Corps.
“I know there are problems up and down the country but the situation in east Kent is a direct result of poor management by taking away acute services in June from the K&C.
“We have queues of ambulances at both the WHH and QEQM with patients being treated on trolleys in corridors, and in all this we have the K&C which is virtually empty. To risk patients’ lives and safety is criminal and they need to act now.”
CHEK say three A&Es with acute services are needed in east Kent.
A public consultation is due to take place on changes to the NHS in east Kent this Spring. Health commissioners are looking at two potential options for accident and emergency care and six potential options for planned inpatient orthopaedic care in east Kent.
Currently the three main hospitals – at Ashford, Canterbury and Margate – each provide different services, with A&E departments at Margate and Ashford and an Urgent Care Centre at Canterbury. A range of specialist services are located at different hospitals. For example, the trauma unit is located at William Harvey Hospital, and inpatient kidney services are at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital.
Option one would mean A&E being operated at QEQM Margate and WHH in Ashford with a GP-led urgent care centre at Canterbury – much as the situation is now. Option two would be a new hospital in Canterbury with A&E but GP led urgent care not A&E at QEQM and WHH.
‘Why 3 A&E’s are not viable’
Susan Acott, Interim Chief Executive, said: “East Kent Hospitals staff are doing an amazing job over Christmas and New Year. The whole of the NHS is very busy and we are caring for a very high number of patients attending our hospitals.
“We have opened additional beds and hundreds of patients are being cared for as inpatients or are receiving 24/7 urgent care for a wide range of illnesses and injuries at Kent & Canterbury Hospital every day.
“As well as 24/7 A&Es at Ashford and Margate, there are an additional 8 minor injury units in east Kent open 365 days a year and we are encouraging people to use these services to take pressure off A&E.
“If we had three A&E departments there would be fewer staff to see patients as staff and services would be stretched more thinly across our hospitals, resulting in longer waiting times and poorer treatment.
“Patients also need to have access to the specialist teams that can treat the conditions patients come into the emergency department with, for example if they have had a stroke, heart attack or a serious accident and need trauma care. These specialist teams can treat patients quickly and effectively but they cannot be in every location.
“For this reason there hasn’t been 3 A&Es in east Kent since 2005 and most patients with these conditions are already taken straight to the William Harvey in Ashford or Kings in London.
“As well as providing more care locally in people’s homes and in the community, our strategy, which will be consulted on, also includes applying for significant investment in modern, expanded emergency care and excellent facilities for specialist services, for example stroke, cardiac and vascular care, so when people do have to come to an acute hospital they are seen more quickly, receive excellent care and recover faster.”
The proposals are part of a draft plan aimed at saving health services in Kent and Medway some £292million.
The Health and Social Care Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP), created by Kent and Medway health trusts, the NHS, Kent County Council and Medway Council, sets out proposals to reduce ‘the estate’ – meaning the sale of assets and property – and “invest in housing and community facilities.”
The STP report outlines changes that health chiefs say will be beneficial. These include more support for people to leave hospital and be cared for in their own home; appointments on time; quality hospital care and better access to advice.
The aim is also to improve mental health services.