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Gale's View - 06/12/2017

December 6th 2017

I am quoted, correctly, as saying that “ It is entirely proper that all of the options available to the  Hospitals Trust should be on the table when considering the future of hospital healthcare in East Kent” and that “it would be a dereliction of duty not to consider even those options that realistically are unaffordable and not acceptable”.


A local developer, Mark Quinn, has offered to donate land and to build the shell of a new hospital in Canterbury. That the offer is linked to a proposed major housing development in which he has an interest is neither improper or unusual: it is not uncommon for companies to offer community facilities as part of a bid for planning consent and indeed Mr. Quinn himself has dedicated a “sports hub” and playing fields for the use of football, hockey, tennis and cricket clubs as part of the re-development of the former Herne Bay Golf course site. His offer is therefore worthy of consideration and the test of what is known as “due diligence”.


The flaw in the offer – and I have pointed this out in person to Mr. Quinn -  is that were there ever to be a single-site  acute hospital built to serve the population of East Kent then it would need to be located where the major roads meet, probably at or near Whitfield and most certainly not on the inland side of Canterbury, and it would need to be supported by a network of Estuary-View style Super-GP practices at a total cost in excess of £800 million at today`s prices.  For the foreseeable future that is a non-starter.


All of that said we do have to rationalise, in the face of growing demands and expectations, the way in which secondary healthcare is delivered for the future.  In that context Thanet and Ashford and, I would argue with an eye on a growing population in Herne Bay, Whitstable and the City, Canterbury also, need modern 24-hour emergency services backed up by the central major trauma centre that currently exists. Additionally,  if what are currently and incorrectly called “Accident and Emergency “ services are not to continue to be overwhelmed by patients presenting as neither accidents nor emergencies then we are going to require a GP presence at all three major hospitals together with enhanced and speedy access to local GP practices  for those that actually need them.  There must also be  a  greater reliance upon community pharmacies for those who do not need either hospital nor GP treatment but who can and should properly be seen by highly trained and qualified pharmacists that are capable of providing a great deal more than dispensing services.


There is no doubt that the Kent and Canterbury hospital buildings are in large part past their sell-by date and while the treatment and care available is excellent staff are working under conditions that are no longer fit-for-purpose.  If, therefore, a property developer is willing and able to provide a modern building to replace the existing buildings that serve the people of the City of Canterbury together with, possibly, a hospice unit and emergency services then that could usefully become part of the mix of hospital facilities available in East Kent.


The geography of the area though, as was demonstrated so very clearly and emphatically in the “Tomorrow`s Healthcare” consultations some years ago, does not now, or for the foreseeable future lend itself to the creation of a single-site hospital even at Whitfield.  The need to reach viable solutions is immediate and cannot wait, once again, for protracted arguments about blue-sky solutions that are not achievable.  The Hospitals Trust has, under its new leadership, the unenviable but vital task of taking swift and practicable decisions and those will have to be based upon the current configuration of sites and available finance.

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