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Health chiefs will ‘rethink’ clinic options

Plans to move outpatient services from Queen Victoria Hospital under attack

PACKED: Herne Bay residents turned out in force to show officials the strength of feeling about the Queen Vic at the first meeting
PACKED: Herne Bay residents turned out in force to show officials the strength of feeling about the Queen Vic at the first meeting

HOSPITAL bosses promised to rethink plans to move outpatient clinics to Estuary View in Whitstable during a meeting last week. The East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust aims to move appointments to just one site in east Kent — either Faversham, Whitstable or Herne Bay. The preferred location is Estuary View at Whitstable, which would act as a one-stop shop for clinics and services, and it came out on top after an evaluation of each site. But after hundreds packed the first consultation meeting in Herne Bay and pointed out errors in the evaluation and information that was missed, directors told campaigners the situation would be looked at again.

Inaccuracies

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UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Herne Bay’s Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital is threatened with service cuts

Speaking at a follow-up meeting at the Kings Hall on Thursday, Marion Clayton, the trust’s director for clinical support services, said:

“We have taken the information on board and we will be reassessing. We are going to revaluate the options appraisal. It will be undertaken again, taking on board some of the Information we have had and putting right some of the inaccuracies. We are going to use that information so we get it right.”

She also said talks would take place with NHS Property Services, who own the Queen Victoria Hospital in Herne Bay as well as the Whitstable and Tankerton Hospital and Faversham Cottage Hospital, to see if they were able to provide the seven consulting rooms needed to offer everything in one place. Trust bosses repeated the presentation they had given at the first meeting, at which 600 people packed into Kings Hall and dozens had to be turned away. This time, about 200 heard details of the analysis carried out and how the proposals would help ensure value for money because staff would not be travelling between sites and patients could have fewer appointments. They were told the hospital trust planned to plough £455,000 into public transport across the county to improve links to the sites. But campaigners were unconvinced by the arguments, pointing out that the Queen Vic already had excellent transport links with a bus stop right outside in King Edward Avenue. The hospital’s supporters also argued that the Queen Vic had parking and space to expand the building, while Estuary View, at Wraik Hill was more constrained.

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BEST VALUE: Hospital trust chief executive Stuart Bain

Trust chief executive Stuart Bain said he had visited the hospital and seen the facilities — but said most were already being used by other providers. He said:

“We need seven consulting rooms, diagnostics and operating theatres six days a week, five days offering extended hours. That is just not available.”

The proposals would mean 20,000 patients would be using Estuary View and the trust speakers denied it would be overwhelmed, as clinics would run from 7am to 7pm on weekdays plus Saturday mornings so patients would be using it at different times. Councillor Joe Howes told the meeting he had attended a previous presentation, with the Friends of Estuary View, at which it appeared the decision had already been made. But he said public money should be spent renting space at the Queen Vic from the NHS Property Company, rather than renting Whitstable Medical Practice from the doctors. Herne Bay MP Sir Roger Gale won the biggest applause of the afternoon when he said common sense must prevail and two sites should be chosen — Faversham and Herne Bay.

Popular

He said:

“Almost 1,000 people have attended these meetings. I have not heard one single person in Herne Bay that agrees with the proposals put forward.”

But Mr Bain said he wanted to protect services and was not there to be popular. Results of the consultation will be analysed by researchers from the University of Kent, who will then produce a report that will be considered by the hospital’s directors.

The facts

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FAVOURED: The Estuary View Medical Centre in Whitstable

The Queen Victoria Hospital would lose the following clinics if the proposals go ahead:

  • Dermatology, ear nose and throat, general surgery, geriatric medicine. gynaecology, obstetrics, ophthalmology, orthopaedic, paediatric, rheumatology, thoracic medicine.
  • Podiatry, physiotherapy and other community clinics would not be affected.

At Estuary View, the cardiology and ophthalmology clinics would see increased use.

  • New clinics would be: Breast surgery, colorectal surgery, dermatology, endocrinology, ear nose and throat, gastroenterology, general surgery, geriatric medicine, gynaecology, nephrology, obstetrics, orthopaedics, paediatrics, rheumatology, thoracic medicine, trauma, urology, vascular surgery, preassessment, speech and language therapy.

The hospital trust deals with more than 700000 appointments each year and more than 500,000 would not be affected. At the moment, 69 per cent of patients living in the Canterbury and coastal area are within 20 minutes by car of a clinic site. The trust says that would rise to 90 per cent with their proposals. At the moment, 6 per cent of patients living in Herne Bay use the Queen Victoria for outpatient services, 2 per cent go to the Whitstable and Tankerton hospital and 60 per cent use Kent and Canterbury. Under the proposed changes, 20 per cent would use Estuary View.

Solitary supporter a trustee

NO DECLARATION: Carole George spoke in favour of the changes but did not mention that she was a governor of the NHS trust
NO DECLARATION: Carole George spoke in favour of the changes but did not mention that she was a governor of the NHS trust

THE only person in the audience who spoke out in favour of the changes to outpatient services was a member of the hospital trust’s board of governors, the Times can reveal. Carole George made a passionate speech about the benefits of one-stop shops where patients can have diagnostic tests and see different medical teams on the same day in the same place. She spoke of her own experiences after being diagnosed with breast cancer, and said she had to go to three different hospitals for her treatment and diagnosis. Mrs George, who lives in Sandwich and was elected to represent Dover on the council of governors, said:

“I understand the issues of transport but I also understand the other issues. We are very lucky to have an NHS. We want to continue to have a good NHS. I want to continue to have good treatment, the best facilities I can have, the best team I can have, the best doctors and nurses I can have and we have to be a bit realistic about what that means. That isn’t going to come without some focus on where they are going to be. Where we choose to put them may be a bit inconvenient for some of us or all of us but what do you want from our NHS services? I want to be well.”

Governors are elected by signed-up members of the hospital trust and can help develop trust services. Each area has a governor elected to represent it and make sure views of members in that area are heard. Philip Wells is the representative for the Canterbury district. Both he and Mrs George were elected unopposed to the board of 26 governors, four staff and 18 public.

Herne Bay Times, March 20th 2014

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