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Unusual new-build option under consideration in East Kent

A new hospital, to be built on donated land by a private property developer, is one of two options for urgent, emergency and acute medical care being considered by healthcare commissioners in East Kent.
The proposal from Quinn Estates, which was first put forward in summer, involves the property developer providing the land and building the shell of a new hospital as part of a development of 2,000 new homes. The project includes a new access road from the A2 and would be subject to planning permission.

East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust (EKHUFT) would have to fit-out the new-build, which would be connected to the current Kent and Canterbury Hospital, and refurbish some of the current buildings at an estimated cost to the NHS of £250m. The proposal would create a single 24/7 A&E and all specialist services for the whole of East Kent at Kent and Canterbury Hospital. QEQM Hospital (in Margate) and William Harvey Hospital (in Ashford) would have 24/7 GP-led Urgent Treatment Centres as well as diagnostics, day surgery, outpatient services and rehabilitation.

The option is less than half the cost of building a new single-site hospital on green belt land, which has been ruled out due to lack of funding and the length of time it would take to build - 10 years. It is however more expensive than the second option that is being considered, which is to invest in larger, modernised A&E departments at both William Harvey and QEQM Hospitals. William Harvey would provide services for people that need highly specialist care and QEQM would provide inpatient care for people who are acutely unwell, emergency and day surgery, maternity and geriatric care. Kent and Canterbury Hospital would have a 24/7 GP-led Urgent Treatment Centre and services including diagnostics, day surgery, outpatient services and rehabilitation. The estimated cost of this option to the NHS is £160m.

The decision to assess these two options further was taken at a meeting of the Joint Committee of East Kent Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) on November 30. A further six options for planned inpatient orthopaedic care are also being considered. The assessment will include a business case for funding the changes and a public consultation will follow in 2018.

In a statement published on the EKHUFT website, Dr Tony Martin, Clinical Chair of NHS Thanet Clinical Commissioning Group says: “We want the NHS to provide excellent healthcare for everyone in east Kent. To achieve that, it has to change.

“The meeting today is part of a very rigorous process we are going through to agree how hospital services should be organised in the future, to meet the needs of local people.

“Demand for health services is constantly growing and changing too. This means that our health and care system in east Kent is under real strain and is not meeting national quality standards. There are limited specialist staff and there is limited money to spend, so we need to use what we have wisely and effectively.

“The next stage is detailed testing and analysis by health professionals and patient representatives of all the potential options, to reach a shortlist that we can consult the public on next year.
“There may well be changes to the options discussed today by the time of the public consultation.”

The concept of a private developer offering to foot the construction bill for a new NHS hospital and provide the land in exchange for planning permission to build new homes is a new one for this country. In Kent - like much of the UK - the pressure is on to build more homes and to ensure healthcare provision meets the changing needs and growing demands of the local population.

Health campaigners in Kent have been long been campaigning against the closure of services at Kent and Canterbury Hospital, but at the same time there is local resistance to the idea of creating one major hospital for the region with the other two hospitals having their services scaled down.

We will watch the progress of this initiative with interest.