Emergency departments in East Kent Hospitals, including the QEQM in Margate, are to benefit from a £7million expansion this winter.
The capital funding from NHS England will allow the Trust to move forward with a three-year project for the departments at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford and the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate.
The scheme includes creating modern, fit-for-purpose children’s emergency departments at each of the two sites, expanding waiting areas, and adding additional cubicles and treatment areas.
Liz Shutler, the Trust’s deputy chief executive and director of strategic development and capital planning, said: “This is excellent news for our patients and staff, and means that we can fulfil our ambition of providing the best possible care in the best possible environment.
“Our emergency departments were originally developed in the 1970s and 1980s, when we would expect to see around 150 patients a day.
“Both sites now treat almost 400 patients daily and while our dedicated staff do their best to accommodate everyone, it means the departments can feel cramped.
“With the need to allow for social distancing, our expansion work has become more urgent and I’m delighted that this funding means we can make it a reality.”
Dedicated children’s emergency facilities will increase on both sites, and there will also be additional space in resuscitation areas, as well more cubicles for patients with less serious injuries or illnesses.
In the second year of the project, there will be extra space added for patient waiting, ambulance transfers, improving the handover process and reducing the risk of delays for patients being admitted.
More cubicles will also be added to improve privacy for people who are being treated in the departments.
The work is in addition to a programme for new 30-bed wards at QEQM and William Harvey Hospital which will open in January 2021; a spend of £734,192 for build works as part of a 21 bed ‘surge solution’ should Covid cases spike again; a room at QEQM dedicated to patients with mental health needs. 8 ITU beds, a women’s ambulatory unit and a new, larger Surgical Emergency Admissions Unit at WHH and more PPE ‘donning and doffing rooms’, additional internal doors and increased hand washing facilities at both hospitals.
South Thanet MP, Craig Mackinlay, has welcomed the £4m QEQM share of funding, saying:“Staff at QEQM are continuing to work tirelessly through this coronavirus pandemic and we are all very grateful for all that they do.
“While I hope for the best this winter, its right that we plan for the worst. This £4m of funding to upgrade A&E in Margate will ensure that QEQM is in the best possible position for the challenges that the winter months may bring.
“As a Conservative, I was re-elected last December on a promise to level up the health service across the country. We are getting on with doing exactly that.”
County councillor Karen Constantine, who sits on the authority’s health scrutiny panel, said: “This is a welcome and much needed cash injection from central Government. The requests and issues raised by staff at both QEQM and WHH now need to be heeded and acted on.
“In particular calls were made for a Perspex screen on the reception desk at the QEQM A&E to offer protection for staff and patients (this has now been implemented). Infection control at WHH was particularly poor, the CQC inspection in the summer found staff breaching social distancing, empty soap and sanitiser dispensers, insufficient hand basins and no plan to deal with over crowding. An alert manager should have noticed these things and acted promptly.
“I hope the cash will be used to ensure people have a better and more Covid safe service.”