The government’s Department of Health and Social Care has not confirmed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that Canterbury is included in funding plans for 40 new hospitals – saying it “looks forward to considering (Canterbury) and other bids in future hospital building rounds.”
Some £2.7 billion has been allocated to six hospital trusts for building projects due to be completed by 2025 with 34 more projects receiving £100million of ‘seed funding’ for completion by 2030.
An apparent announcement was made by the PM during a fringe Conservative meeting yesterday (September 30) saying Canterbury was among the planned 40 new hospitals.
The PM told the gathering: “Canterbury is going to be one of the 40 new hospitals we are building – in the biggest programme of hospital infrastructure investment for a generation.”
East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust declined to comment, passing enquiries to the Department of Health.
A non committal statement from the government department says: “The second phase, HIP2 (aiming to deliver between 2025 and 2030), will include 21 new projects – delivering thirty four new hospitals – that will receive seed funding to kick start their schemes. Other potential projects will also be able to bid into this wave.
“The Prime Minister and the Health Secretary recognise the challenges facing acute services in East Kent including Canterbury, and the Department for Health and Social Care look forward to considering this and other bids in future hospital building rounds.”
The announcement had caused concerns that investment in Canterbury would have a negative impact on Thanet and Ashford hospitals in the light of reorganisations plans by the Kent and Medway heath trusts.
Fears for QEQM
Campaign group Save Our NHS In Kent (SONIK) feared the announcement meant Boris Johnson was backing a plan which would mean the downgrading of Margate’s QEQM hospital and the closure of its A&E department.
Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt of campaign group Save Our NHS In Kent (SONIK) said: “This announcement looks like it will spell disaster for Margate’s QEQM hospital and for Thanet. We must fight to keep A&E at QEQM, and to ensure that maternity consultants aren’t robbed from QEQM to be moved elsewhere. Thanet is an area of deprivation and needs these time-critical services, or lives will be put at risk.”
SONIK spokesperson Carly Jeffrey said it could mean ‘major cuts’ to QEQM services, adding: “Kent and Medway STP plan to centralise acute care in East Kent. There are currently three large district general hospitals (one in Canterbury, the QEQM in Margate and William Harvey in Ashford).
“The plan is a major reconfiguration and requires a public consultation. So far, there are two options going to consultation. Option 2 means a new building in Canterbury where all of east Kent’s acute care will be delivered, meaning that large populations in Thanet and Ashford lose their A&E and consultant led maternity care (see attachment). Thanet is the second most densely population in Kent, and the second most deprived in all of the southeast.
“The new build at Canterbury was initially proposed by a prolific developer in east Kent (a major Tory donor) in exchange for the right to build 2000 homes on adjacent land.
“The plan to build a new wing at Canterbury is also subject to an east Kent-wide public consultation, so the announcement probably interferes with the legal obligations of our local NHS trusts”.
She added: “Firstly the Conservatives made an announcement of £13 billion for 40 new hospitals. It’s worth noting that none of those new hospitals was a mental health trust, as ever the ‘poor relation’.
Save Our NHS in Kent have been campaigning for ‘three excellent hospitals’ in east Kent since 2017. The group says that all three hospitals – the QEQM, the Kent and Canterbury and the William Harvey in Ashford, should all have full A&E and full maternity services.
Proposals from East Kent Hospitals and the four east Kent clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) include an overhaul which could include moving many services, including accident & emergency, to a new build hospital in Canterbury.
Changes are planned to east Kent’s urgent, emergency and acute medical care -including A&E departments – specialist care, and planned inpatient orthopaedic care (such as hip and knee operations).
Commissioners are also discussing whether to move maternity and children’s inpatient services to a new hospital in Canterbury and options for moving specialist services to either Canterbury or Ashford.
SONiK refuse to accept either of the two options on offer and have insisted that there should be a third option provided when the plans go to public consultation next year.
They also have a petition with over 6,000 signatures: https://www.change.org/p/to-kent-medway-stp-there-must-be-full-a-e-at-canterbury-ashford-and-thanet-hospitals