Plans to evaluate two possible options for improving hospital and local NHS services across east Kent were given the go-ahead at a meeting of the Sustainable Health Care in East Kent Joint Committee of NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups on 28 February 2019.

Both options will be considered against key criteria to assess whether they improve care sufficiently for people in east Kent. This will lead to a recommendation on which option(s) go forward to public consultation.

This is the latest stage in the development of proposals, led by doctors, nurses and others from East Kent Hospitals and the four east Kent clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), to deliver better healthcare, both in and out of hospital.

Responding to patient and public feedback

The meeting of the joint committee, on 28 February, heard how views from nearly 2,000 people through public meetings, small discussion groups, street surveys and online questionnaires between October 2018 and January 2019. More than 1,100 people discussed the plans face-to-face with NHS leaders and independent researchers, and over 750 people responded to a questionnaire.

Bob Deans, independent chair of the joint committee, acknowledged the wide range of voices that had been heard and thanked everyone who had taken part.

Dr Darren Cocker, a GP from Lydden, is one of the clinicians working on the plans. He said: “It’s very important that we understand the issues people from across east Kent have raised and adapt our plans where we can.

“Since we discussed the options with the public late last year, we have updated the proposals to confirm that all three hospitals would have 24/7 urgent treatment centres in both options; and we propose including a midwife-led maternity unit at Margate in option two. The proposals will also include providing outpatient services at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital in both options.”

“We are still developing both options and no decisions will be made until after a formal public consultation; but these changes are good examples of how we’re listening to what local people are saying and adapting the proposals ahead of full consultation.” 

Topics that local people raised consistently included:

  • General support for the case for change, but wanting to see more evidence on proposals
  • Questions about how the options had been developed and assessed
  • Travel and transport issues if services are relocated
  • Workforce shortages within hospitals, general practice, community care and ambulance services
  • Questions about what urgent care will be available locally and plans for the development of urgent treatment centres.

Recognising strong views from the public, the joint committee approved a recommendation to establish a travel and transport group including NHS, council and public representatives. The group will explore the potential impact on journey times in more detail and how the concerns people have raised could be addressed.

Caroline Selkirk, Managing Director for the four east Kent clinical commissioning groups, said: “We need to modernise local health services so our highly trained expert staff have the support they need to deliver 21st century care for local people.

“People want more care in their communities, with access to excellent hospital services when they need it – we’ve heard that loud and clear from patients, the public, our staff and partners.

“Everyone involved in this work is passionate about getting it right for patients and this takes time. It’s a significant project which potentially involves major changes. We have to look at this in forensic detail and make sure we get it right, not just for people today but for future generations.” 

Detailed evaluation process and timeline

The joint committee reviewed the core criteria that will be used to confirm which option(s) will go forward for a bid for central NHS funding and a public consultation. There are five main criteria:

  • Clinical sustainability
  • Accessibility
  • Implementable
  • Strategic fit
  • Financial sustainability

Within these criteria the evaluation will look in detail at each option’s potential impact across a range of issues including: workforce and clinical performance; travel times for patients and visitors including ambulance, car and public transport; the time it would take to implement and the costs involved.

Nationally the NHS recognises the need for significant investment to improve local services for patients. We are working closely with them to agree a timeline for public consultation as soon as possible. In the meantime, we are working hard to further develop our business case for submission to NHS nationally in readiness for the next capital funding round.

Meeting papers