AFTER all the furore, from Monday people in Herne Bay will have to travel to Whitstable for if they need outpatient services.
There has been fierce opposition to the plans to base a ‘hub’ outpatients clinic “hub” at Estuary View in Whitstable, with the running down of services at both Herne Bay’s Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital and Faversham Cottage Hospital, but a decision that was ratified in July finally becomes reality next week.
Not only are campaigners concerned that thousands of patients will now have to travel further for their treatment but they fear for the future of small ‘cottage’ hospitals such as the Queen Victoria.
Speaking in the autumn, Gillian Fowler, chairman of the Herne Bay hospital’s League of Friends, said: “It makes me nervous and in the depths of depression I can see us folding.
“I can’t see what we are going to do to combat it. This government likes private companies running services and if the plan involves selling off the Whitstable and Tankerton Hospital, too, that will help finance it.
“I am horrified, to be honest, but it’s not a surprise. It all appears to be about money rather than patients.”
However, it is claimed that that the Estuary View centre will offer patients a wider range of outpatient services, with a full range of diagnostics.
The site was one of six identified in the Outpatients Strategy, which would provide services in enhanced facilities, offering more flexible operating hours and introducing more one-stop services.
Once fully operational, the site will provide outpatient services to up to 20,000 patients on the north Kent coast.
Mary Tunbridge, divisional director of clinical support services, said: “We are delighted to be opening the excellent new outpatient facilities at Estuary View, which will provide patients with a wider range of outpatient services on one site.
“The services will also be supported by a full range of diagnostics including MRI scans. We will be offering patients appointments both earlier and later in the day and also on a Saturday morning.”
NHS Canterbury and Coastal Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) endorsed the changes at a public meeting in July following a public consultation.
Simon Perks, CCG accountable officer, said: “The proposals match our own vision of delivering high-quality care as close to home as possible while making sure we are innovative in how we use our resources.”
East Kent NHS Trust has also invested in improving bus links from the towns to the site.
The new outpatient clinics will include paediatrics, rheumatology, endocrinology (diabetes), gastroenterology, health care of older people, ophthalmology, general surgery, respiratory, vascular, trauma and orthopaedics, and gynaecology (which will move later rather than immediately).