As many of you know, Health Education England (HEE), the organisation responsible for training health professionals, raised concerns about the support available for junior doctors Kent & Canterbury Hospital in the autumn of 2015. Their concerns were shared by the General Medical Council (GMC) that oversees the registration of doctors in the UK. The background and all the reasons for their concerns can be found here.
East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust (EKHUFT), the trust that runs the hospitals in Canterbury, Margate, Ashford, Dover & Folkestone, came to talk to us over a year ago asking for our advice on how best to talk to you, the public, about these issues.
The Trust also asked for our help to facilitate a conversation with a public campaign group who had been making local media headlines. The group were offered a face to face session with the Chief Executive of the Trust but they declined to attend, choosing instead to make a public statement and video at the Trust’s formal governing body meeting.
The Trust has kept us up to date on developments whilst they tried to provide additional support to the junior doctors. However, with more senior consultants leaving, the doctors continued to raise concerns. This triggered the creation of a Single Oversight Group which has been chaired by NHS Improvements. Its role it to look at the situation, the risks and the options. Representatives from EKHUFT, HEE, GMC, NHS England, local Clinical Commissioning Groups who fund the trust, South East Coast Ambulance Trust, Kent Community Health Foundation Trust who provide the local community services and hospitals, Kent County Council who provide care at home and access to care homes and the Care Quality Commission who inspect services are all in attendance including myself for Healthwatch Kent.
At these meetings we have seen the Trust being pushed very hard to produce alternative scenarios and test them to ensure patient safety could be maintained. Whilst exploring the option to move some services to the Margate and Ashford hospitals, all the other organisations were also pushed hard for how they would ensure the two hospitals could cope with the additional demand, by preventing people having to be admitted where possible, and being discharged home as soon as possible. Work was also being done at Kent & Canterbury Hospital to allow people to be moved back there should they wish once their immediate illness had been treated.
From our attendance at these meetings, we can confirm that the move of some services out of Kent & Canterbury Hospital has not been a cost cutting exercise. In reality, additional funds have been made available. The key concern at all times has been the safety of patients.
The final decision to move some services out of Kent & Canterbury Hospital was taken in early June. Since then we have received daily updates on how services are coping with these changes.
At every meeting we attended it was reiterated that these changes would be temporary and a full public consultation will be undertaken with the public once the options for the future are clearer.
We have heard that many local people are concerned about these changes. Our last podcast was with a campaigner for Canterbury Hospitals, Ken Rogers.
What is clear to us at Healthwatch, is that this decision has not been taken lightly and the safety of patients has been the key factor throughout this process. Only time will tell whether the system will be able to adapt to this change.
This blog is just one example of how we at Healthwatch Kent continue to use our unique position to hold organisations to account.
If you want to know more about our work, you can read our recent annual report or check out our website.
If you have been affected by the changes, either good or bad, do get in touch. Call us on 0808 801 0102, click 'talk to us', or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we can share your experience with the hospital and the wider health and care system.