Campaigners will be gathering on Saturday (July 28) to demonstrate against what they fear is a major threat to Thanet’s GP surgeries.
The initiative is part of the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP), created by Kent and Medway health trusts, the NHS, Kent County Council and Medway Council, which sets out proposals to overhaul the health system, including changes to GP surgeries and hospitals.
The STP says extended GP practices will provide enhanced in-hours primary care and enable more evening and weekend appointments and hubs – with an even greater patient capacity – will offer multi-disciplinary teams delivering physical and mental health services locally at greater scale and seven day integrated health and social care.
Original proposals were for four GP groupings – dubbed Primary Care Houses (PCHs) – made up of the villages, Broadstairs; Margate and Ramsgate. Proposals then reduced that to three by combining the villages and Broadstairs.
Now the CCG is said to be looking at GPs working as four networks rather than specific hubs.
Dr Jihad Malasi, chair of NHS Thanet Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Our ambition is to make an amazing, positive, life-changing improvement to people’s health in Thanet.
“People have asked for one-stop shops where they can access health services, see their social worker, get help to stop smoking or lose weight, see a counsellor, get advice on housing and employment and all sorts of things that would make life easier. We know these would also help us provide more joined up care.
“Other areas have shown that working in this innovative way has huge benefits for patients, their families and the wider community and makes it much easier to attract new GPs, nurses and other staff – and that’s what we want for Thanet.
“We are working towards creating one of these new health and care hubs at Bethesda Medical Centre in Margate, and will be asking people what services should be in it, so they can help shape it.
“Over the next few years, we aspire to create similar centres in Broadstairs, and in Ramsgate. There are no guarantees we will succeed, though we will do our very best.
“We expect the majority of GP practices to continue to be based in the same locations as now, and can assure people there will be no reduction in GP services.”
But a spokesperson for campaign group Save Our NHS In Kent (SONIK) said they want assurances no other surgeries will close. They said: “We have already lost surgeries in recent years here in Thanet. Now there is talk of replacing many or all of our remaining surgeries with three out-of-town, ‘super-hubs.’ We are demanding a cast iron assurance from NHS bosses that no more GP surgeries will be closed in Thanet.
“A local area depends on its GPs, they are an absolutely vital community resource and we must insist that they stay in our community and as close as possible to their patients. This is particularly important for a poor area of low car ownership such as Thanet.”
They say the plans also raise questions about continuity of care and the importance seeing doctors and nurses who know you and your family, as it is claimed that this leads to better health. The SONIK spokesperson said: “We want to protest but also want to hear people’s views and concerns, and so we urge them to come along and chat to us next Saturday.”
‘No plans to reduce surgeries’
Currently there are 14 GP practices on the isle, Thanet CCG says there are no plans to reduce those surgeries. In the case of Bethesda GPs are expected to merge the Northdown GP service at the extended site. The CCG say plans for Westwood are at an early stage but it is likely some practices across the area will merge and deliver all their services from the new building, others may deliver some services from Westwood and some from their current buildings and others may want to keep all services at their current site but work closely with the Westwood teams. The same options would apply for Ramsgate and the Montefiore centre.
The SONiK campaigners will be gathering at 11am near Victoria Gardens by the bandstand in Broadstairs.
Stroke unit plans
Campaigners have also written to Kent county and district councillors asking them where they stand on plans to close stroke departments in Kent hospitals as part of proposals for three hyper-acute units.
The Save Our NHS In Kent (SONIK) group has sent letters to members of Thanet District Council and to Kent County Council asking them if they are opposed to the plan and willing to fight back against it.
A shortlist of options for the specialist units lists only the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford for east Kent, meaning the unit at QEQM would shut down.
The NHS in Kent and Medway – which includes all 8 Clinical Commissioning Groups – Bexley in south east London and the High Weald area of East Sussex are now consulting on the proposals.
The shortlist, which is subject to further assessment and final approval, is:
- Darent Valley Hospital, Medway Maritime Hospital, William Harvey Hospital
- Darent Valley Hospital, Maidstone Hospital, William Harvey Hospital
- Maidstone Hospital, Medway Maritime Hospital, William Harvey Hospital
- Tunbridge Wells Hospital, Medway Maritime Hospital, William Harvey Hospital
- Darent Valley Hospital, Tunbridge Wells Hospital and William Harvey Hospital
The NHS says hyper acute stroke units will reduce deaths as each will have a multi-disciplinary team of specialist stroke clinicians, seven days a week caring for patients in the critical first 72 hours.
But Thanet campaigners say isle lives will be at risk because of journey times to Ashford.
A spokesperson for SONiK said: “Under plans which are due to be voted on this autumn, QEQM Hospital in Margate and two other as yet undecided Kent hospitals will lose their stroke units.
“Thanet District Council has stated that it is ‘vehemently opposed’ to the proposals, and we want to follow that up by compiling a list of which TDC councillors support the stroke review plans and those that are willing to speak out against it. “
The spokesperson added: “We’ve already heard from a small number of councillors who are prepared to publicise their opposition but now it is time for all councillors to stand up and be counted on this vital issue. The loss of a stroke unit may be a matter of life and death in a local area.”