Christine Tongue: A consultation at Quarterdeck – but was it the right one?

The Quarterdeck consultation

Margate has two Quarterdecks. One is a community centre in Cliftonville, near a bus stop, with accessible meeting rooms and easy to find. The other is a bar at the back of a pub near Dreamland, off the Loop bus route, and with steps.

So if you were a management group from our local NHS which one would you book for a meeting about the future of our GP surgeries?

Yes, of course! The one with the steps rather than the community centre (mistakenly so, it appears).

We were being asked about the proposed new “superhub” GP palace at Palm Bay, an experimental first step in how our GPs are to be organised in the future.

When my uncle was a GP back in the 50s, he worked out of an office built on the side of his house, did his own house and night calls – and died youngish from overwork. Not ideal.

But what’s proposed for Thanet now is three or four “hubs” housing doctors and all sorts of other goodies, physios, nurses, specialists of all kinds, perhaps a minigym or a cafe. They may be very near where you live, or, in the case of Broadstairs, several miles away.

They wanted to know what we might want from the first one. They’ve got several million pounds to expand the Bethesda Practice at Palm Bay, so they’re not asking if we want it or not, just going through the usual “consultation” process that seems to be necessary before they do what they’ve planned to do anyhow.

We were put in table format, like for a quiz, with free pens and a question paper. Unfortunately people in wheelchairs were stuck in one spot as they couldn’t get down the steps. And Gawd help them if they tried to get to the loo. Someone had hilariously put a ramp up two steps at the back of the building but not up the third step and the lav was at the top.

The disability disregard was rubbed in by one of the presenters who was wearing six inch heels (animal print) and had a job teetering down the wooden steps from the bar to the quiz area.

At some point another presenter apologised for the venue and confessed they should have checked it out before the meeting! Aha, I thought to myself, someone has booked the wrong quarterdeck!

Just as well it was hard to find, because the meeting was packed – we all care about our NHS – and if all the people who wanted to go had been able to find it we’d have been in the sea.

My table all agreed we didn’t really want to fill up our beautiful seafronts with more building and private companies running gyms and cafes when we really wanted a good hospital and investment in more services at QEQM, rather than losing our stroke unit and moving lots of departments to Ashford.

But this new Palm Bay building seems inevitable – they’ve engaged an architect and everything! Mind you, he admitted he didn’t know about having a hoist in the disabled toilet when he was asked by one of the wheelchair users so perhaps he’s on a learning curve as well, like all the rest of us.

Mini health centres could be brilliant. But not miles from where anyone lives and not at the expense of our hospital.

So if you get consulted, remember the Quarterdeck is where the captain commands the ship. But mutiny may be necessary if we want to preserve our NHS.


  1. These new ‘super hubs’ need to be accessible by public transport. Bethesda is only served by the hourly 38 bus that starts late and finishes early. The alternative route is the Loop or the 8A if you are on that route and both would be quite a walk from Northdown Road to Palm Bay.

    There was an assumption
    made at another meeting I attended that Stagecoach might make occasional diversions to the route to serve the practice but there is no confirmation that would happen. As I was told by a Stagecoach manager , ‘We are a commercial company, not a public service’. So now you know!

  2. At this meeting it was made clear that private companies and voluntary sector groups may play a large part in what was on offer in the centre. I asked if any of those private companies would be allowed to be involved in the running of the GP surgery itself… and was told yes. It was one of the doctors (Dr Martin) who admitted that – the facilitators then tried to hurriedly change the subject. Little mention was made of the other changes that come with these hubs, such as the extent to which there will be more staff that are less well-trained, and the use of receptionist triage.

  3. Can you confirm you attended a “Public Consultation” If you did, then it’s Turkey’s voting for Christmas, if you want to know, check out the Law regarding ” Public Consultation” I did when my late Father, diagnosed with Dementia received a letter to attend a” Public Consultation”

  4. What an anti feminist article this is. How can we reduce women to the pattern and height of their shoe in this day and age. I am appalled to see such reckless abandonment to the qualities of women. When we look pass the obstacles that women like those pictured have overcome to be top of their field, just to riddle their shoe takes feminism back so many years. The writer of this article should be ashamed. Has she done her research? Has she learnt about the women she is mocking? Does she understand the adversity she has faced throughout her career? I suggest not. Perhaps look at yourself before you judge others for the type of their shoe.

    • The article states that one of the presenters was wearing six inch animal print heels – it does not mention the presenter being a female . . .

      Another presenter apologised for the venue (again not mentioning it it was male, female, gender neutral, undecided, in transition or whatever).

      Where do you get all your non-sense about the article being anti-feminist ? (The article was, after all, written by a woman !)

      I apologise for being a male – but I just hate everybody and treat them with equal contempt regardless of sex, ethnicity, religion, etc., etc., etc. without fear or favour.

  5. It’s such a shame that poor journalism here has provided us with nothing other than bitter comments regarding the venue (which was actually addressed and apologised for) and the choice of shoe of one of the presenters, suggesting that a six inch heel with animal print is an attack on disabled people. Clutching at straws there…
    I would have liked to have read about the proposed units within the centre and what ideas people attending came up with. I at least assumed there would be some detail of what was discussed. Perhaps then the general public could take an interest and everyone could work together to make this something beneficial to our community rather than instantly create negative articles on irrelevant matters. How can we expect any sort of improvement to our services when opportunities such as these are met with what can only be described as poorly written gossip columns? Hope to hear more on the actual subject and the proposed services to be provided within the centre.

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