By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
The potential expansion of Canterbury’s main hospital could be a step closer following an agreement to sell a parcel of land by a local authority.
Plans are on the table to build the facility on 14.4 acres of farmland next to the Kent and Canterbury Hospital in Langton Field.
If approved, the five-storey building would host a major emergency unit for the whole of east Kent, with all specialist services such as heart and stroke care centralised in the city.
Kent County Council (KCC) agreed to sell a parcel of agricultural land neighbouring the site during a private meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
After the meeting, a KCC spokesman said: “The land is surplus to our requirements and the council has agreed to it being available for inclusion in the hospital plans, if required.
“In any event, the council will want to achieve best value for its asset.
“Several estimates on the value of the land have been received but the council does not wish to disclose them at this time.”
The NHS has considered options to expand Kent and Canterbury, Margate’s QEQM and Ashford’s William Harvey Hospital for the last few years.
The final hospital configuration will be determined over the next 18 months, following consultation and debate by the government and health leaders.
The Canterbury option would see A&E departments at Ashford’s William Harvey and the QEQM in Margate downgraded to urgent treatment centres.
The alternative choice would see services centralised at Ashford’s William Harvey, Margate’s A&E unit expanded and Kent and Canterbury Hospital downgraded to specialise in diagnostics and routine planned surgery.
The Kent and Canterbury Hospital’s expansion relies on developer Quinn Estates coming forward to create 2,000 homes, making a major financial contribution to the build cost. The NHS would need to find the money to equip it.
Canterbury City Council (CCC) owns adjacent farmland to the north west, extending to approximately 9.3 hectares, which may also be up for sale.
The Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which oversees the county’s seven main hospitals, says no final decision has been made.
A spokesman said: “It is necessary for the NHS to have discussions with land owners in order to identify whether potential options for hospital services in east Kent are viable.
“Our discussions with KCC and CCC do not indicate one option has been chosen, or is more likely to be chosen, over the other.”
The sale of the land could be completed by December 2022 if the Canterbury option is approved over the next 17 months.
The option to downgrade QEQM has been hotly contested by health pressure group Save Our NHS in Kent, County Councillor Karen Constantine and members of Thanet district and town and parish councils.
Cllr Constantine said: “We need to understand how this will impact local services, particularly A&E and maternity, Thanet cannot afford to lose any of the services it currently has. If anything we need an increased range of services to ensure people receive the prompt care they require.
“I’m keen to ensure a robust consultation is undertaken and that all plans are transparent. We need to know has happened to the money already earmarked for the HASU at Ashford? Is that being carried forward?
“Also, mechanical thrombectomy, MT, needs to be ‘baked into’ this plan. MT, which the Stroke Association estimates only 10 per cent of stroke patients in the UK are currently eligible to receive due to the location of available treatment, is shown to be very effective, but the procedure is also hugely time-dependent. It’s a huge step forward for stroke patients and their families. MT is provided by these centres which take patients directly and from district hospitals. The centres, mostly in London aim to provide the treatment in a “within hours” setting.
“It seems as though we will be revisiting some of the debates and issues we had when looking at the location of HASUs.
“The pandemic has obviously delayed some of this restructuring, but we should and could benefit from that delay if new treatments are factored in.”