‘Credibility’ of £460m hospital shake up in east Kent reviewed by NHS

QEQM Photo Chris Constantine

By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan

Controversial plans to transform hospital services in east Kent are being reviewed by NHS leaders.

Kent County Council (KCC) and Medway Council’s health scrutiny committees yesterday reviewed £460 million plans to transform A&E and specialist care in the east of the county.

The Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said it is still investigating the “credibility” of two options ahead of a public consultation.

Kent county councillors have said it remains “difficult” to decide between the creation of a new “super” hospital in Canterbury or expansion of emergency services at the William Harvey in Ashford and QEQM in Margate.

Rachel Jones, who is the CCG’s executive director of strategy and population health, said: “We need to market test the two options and really understand  that both are viable and deliverable, before we go to a public consultation.”

Speaking to the panel of Kent county councillors, she added: “I think that is to the benefit of the whole population of east Kent.”

A funding bid to transform emergency hospital care in the east of the county was initially made to the Department for Health and Social Care last October.

However, the government has delayed making a final verdict due to the coronavirus pandemic.

One of Kent’s two options includes a five-storey major emergency unit for the whole of east Kent built near the Kent and Canterbury Hospital (K&C).

Under the plans, heart and stroke care would be centralised in Canterbury.

Developers Quinn Estates have agreed to build the shell of the hospital for free as part of a wider housing development of 2,000 homes on surrounding land, with the NHS having to find the money to equip it.

Kent and Medway CCG chiefs have described it as an “innovative” scheme.

However, concerns were raised by Cllr Paul Bartlett (Con), who is KCC’s health scrutiny chair, about the “viability” of the “super” Canterbury hospital proposal.

At yesterday’s meeting, the Ashford county councillor said: “I have never been convinced that is going to be adequately markedly tested.”

He expressed caution over the “reliability” of the scheme, saying: “I am not sure it is credible to rely on private funding to deliver a larger hospital.”

The Kent NHS’ other option includes centralising specialist care at Ashford’s William Harvey Hospital, with A&Es at both Ashford and Margate hospitals expanded. Meanwhile, 24 hour urgent care would continue K&C.

Both will be scrutinised more closely in a forthcoming public consultation, although the timeline for this is not known.

Ms Jones added: “I think this is a really positive step forward for the east Kent transformation programme.”

Carly Jeffrey from campaign group Save Our NHS in Kent said: “It is still our position that both options on offer are unsatisfactory. Centralising stroke, A&E and consultant-led maternity in Canterbury is bad for those that live in the Thanet and Ashford areas and could even worsen wait times for Canterbury residents.

“The option that moves services to Ashford is bad for those in Canterbury, and it is still unclear what level of service will remain at QEQM hospital under that option. Various studies show that centralising A&E does not bring about any improvements to mortality or disability outcomes, and in some cases, worsens mortality outcomes. Outcomes tend to worsen if the journey time rises about 25 minutes, which will be the case for at least one of our districts in east Kent if either of these plans proceed.

“We are also concerned about the additional pressure on the struggling ambulance service and the increase in already appalling health inequalities in deprived areas like Thanet.”

A final decision for funding is expected from the government by the end of 2022.


  1. The largest consideration for any new hospital in East Kent must be how do patients/visitors get to it on public transport? Neither Kent & Canterbury, or the William Harvey are accessible by public transport, and I have had to refuse treatment on occasion when I was referred to them! The QEQM is being made larger by the looks of it, and so it should be, as tens of thousands of mostly elderly people do not have their own transport, and depend on public transport to get to it. What are the odd the CCG etc will ignore this suggestion?

    • I agree with you. I have just given up driving as I was getting very nervous of the young generation only learning to pass their test. I have to attend QEQM fairly regularly and the bus service to here is brilliant. If I have to go elsewhere they would have to supply transport which just adds to the expenses for the NHS>

      • Marva, I use to have to go the William Harvey for when both my parents were alive, and there is no public transport from the Ashford railway station, or if there is how will anyone use it if they have to keep to an appointment? The same applies to the Kent & Canterbury, because people would have to walk through the town to get to the bus station, and risk missing an appointment! No, its impossible to use public transport to get to an appointment to either of the two hospitals, and on one occasion some years ago, I was forced to go by taxi to the K & C, at a cost of £28.00. I came back by bus though that took ages!

        • When I went to the WH a few years ago , I caught a bus from Ashford railway station. Perhaps there’s no longer a bus to the hospital from there- I don’t know.

          • I also went to the Canterbury hospital by train and bus,to keep an appointment, a few years ago. Again, perhaps that service no longer exists.

          • The point here Marva is, its virtually impossible to keep to an appointment by public transport, unless you try and get there much earlier than you need to! Its not worth taking a chance, but its fairly easy on the Loop, as they run every ten minutes or so.

  2. Constantly meddling and undermining of NHS services needs to stop, the Tories have NEVER done ANYTHING that has improved care services in East Kent
    NEVER. I have worked in the NHS for nearly 40 years and seen at first hand the damage that has been done.
    All in the name of lies of “to improve patients care”

  3. You can be sure that the developer may build free of charge but nothing has been said about the ongoing costs e.g. annual rent of the building for ever more. More only half truths me thinks.

  4. A small group of us, did a study on transport to the William Harvey Hospital by bus on a Sunday from Cecil Square via Canterbury, the bus was chosen as the cheapest form of public transport, given the poverty that exists in Thanet.
    It worked out, one way trip would take a little over 4 hours (if the connections are on time) and a little over 4 hours return to Margate again via Canterbury, you can add an hour to each journey if a connection is missed.
    Then there is the announcement last week, of patients having to wait up to 45 minutes for an ambulance to turn up, so that would be a 1 hour forty five minutes for a stroke/ heart attack victim to reach the WHH, that is, given there is no traffic on the way, like the Sturry crossing or the heavy traffic in Canterbury.
    The road network in East Kent is the main barrier to any new hospital in Canterbury.
    The Quinn Estates will want something in return for there free hospital shell, and afraid this will be the land at both QEQM Hospital and Canterbury hospital site, so win win for them, as they are both premium parcels of land worth well in excess of any shell they may build. they could knock both buildings down and use the infrastructure already in the ground and build there soulless housing estates.
    These hospitals belong to the people of East Kent, and the people of East Kent should have a final say, not people who have no local knowledge, as proven with the Stroke unit outcome.

  5. We do not want a new hospital in Canterbury to be a hospital for the people of Thanet thank you.

    We want investment in our hospital.

    I speak for everyone.

    No person in Thanet wants to lose a Thanet based hospital or any of the services it offers 30 mins to nearest A&E for a population like Thanet simply isn’t good enough especially the amount my NI payments just went up!

  6. Being an outpatient of Canterbury Hospital it takes nearly 2 hours to get there by bus from Margate. On a good day maybe 1 hr 45mins. Also bus pass is not valid until 9.30 am so if I travel for an early appointment it is as cheap to drive at about 1 hour usually. Plus the bus is a very bumpy ride for my back. No guesses which transport I use. I do use the bus when possible but it is so slow. Redeveloping Margate and Ashford seems the best choice with Thanet and Ashford populations growing steadily. Then build a new hospital for Canterbury. It needs all 3 to be modernised to be honest. There is no cheap fix due to under investment all the time for the last 20 years or more. Time for us to have some decent health care in Thanet and the rest of Kent. I just got my first dentist appointment for over 2 years as dentistry is in a real jam in the NHS. A lot of us can’t afford private care before you say so.

  7. Having recently had a heart attack and experienced a 35 minute journey Cliftonville to Ashford at 4a.m. I would opt for upgrading QEQM!
    To have a surgeon and team for immediate assistance was incredible but once on the ward the experience deteriorated to an unacceptable standard.
    QEQM must be upgraded ASAP – the population is growing fast but services are being withdrawn to enhance more affluent areas.

  8. QEQM every time, we need it with the ever growing elderly population. Good luck getting to Canterbury or Ashford in an emergency with the increase in traffic. It only takes one accident to cause total gridlock.

  9. There seems to be one big thing that is not being spoken about, Its one thing to have a hospital but have they got the Doctors and nurses to look after the patients?
    They certainly do not have the proper amount of staff to look after patients at the moment, and too my knowledge it is getting worse not better. Patients are left in the waiting room unattended for hours awaiting blood results for suspected stroke and heart attacks, If the bloods come back positive they do not move you back to a trolley until they have one free.
    They are always waiting for the doctors as they work the wards too!! It is a mess.
    Our lives are not being taken care of, the hospital is run on the wing of a prayer 😢

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