Temporary changes at Kent & Canterbury Hospital

The Trust announced on 21 March that Health Education England – the body that oversees the quality of junior doctor training in hospitals – asked it to move around half of the junior doctors at the Kent & Canterbury Hospital to the Trust’s other two hospitals at Ashford and Margate.

This is because we have had to rely heavily on locum (temporary) doctors to run services, as it is increasingly difficult to recruit to vacant posts. As a teaching Trust, we have to make sure that our junior doctors have access to senior doctors to support them in their training, and HEE is concerned that the trainees are not getting the support they need.

As a result on 19 June 2017 38 junior doctors were moved from Kent & Canterbury Hospital to the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford and the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate.

We cannot continue to provide the same services as we have been without the junior doctors, so from 19 June some services at Kent and Canterbury Hospital moved. This is called an emergency transfer of services, the decision was approved by the Trust’s Board on Friday, 9 June. It can only be made on a temporary basis. Any permanent changes to services would not be made without public consultation.

The changes affect people who require urgent medical care for conditions like heart attack, stroke and pneumonia. We moved hyper acute stroke services earlier, this happened on 10 April 2017.

Patients are no longer being brought to the Urgent Care Centre as an emergency. Instead patients are being taken directly by ambulance to our hospitals in Margate or Ashford, whichever is closer, for initial assessment and if they need to be admitted, patients will continue to be treated at these hospitals while they are very unwell.

Once local patients are well enough, we will be discharging them home or to a nursing or residential care facility. If they are medically fit to leave our hospitals in Margate or Ashford but need to remain in hospital to continue their rehabilitation, they may move to the K&C to be closer to home. This will only happen if they are well enough, using properly qualified staff and appropriate patient transport.

These changes do not affect the majority of services at the K&C. For example, surgical services, chemotherapy services, renal, vascular and urology services, as well as all outpatient clinics and the minor injuries unit, are not affected.

We are committed to making sure as many patients as possible can still be cared for in Canterbury. In all, the temporary changes affect up to 50 of the 900 people who attend the hospital each day.

There continues to be a full minor injury and illness service at the hospital. Patients who have a planned operation or outpatient appointment, or are visiting the ambulatory centre, having an x-ray, blood test or therapy session at K&C, are not affected and will be seen and treated at K&C as usual.

Most stroke services remain unchanged at the K&C, including outpatient appointments and rehabilitation services. The hospital’s stroke ward remains open and continues to care for patients recovering from a stroke.

We have made these changes because patients’ safety and recovery is our utmost priority. We need patients to be seen in the place they will get the most appropriate treatment which means, for the moment, some patients being treated at Ashford and Margate for the first few days of their care.

We are continuing to work closely with the ambulance service and other parts of the NHS and social care to ensure patient care remains safe and effective.

The Trust has a strong safety record. Please be reassured that hospital services are safe and these changes have only been introduced so we can continue to provide safe services, training and supervision of junior doctors.

In the longer-term we need to move to a more sustainable way of providing hospital care which includes making the best use of our three existing hospital sites. Our longer-term strategy to reconfigure services is set out in the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) published in October 2016 and is separate from this emergency transfer.

The STP sets out proposals for a comprehensive reconfiguration of services, provided both in and out of hospital, to improve the quality and safety of care we can offer, to improve outcomes for our patients and meet the long-term needs of our changing population.

Useful links

Information for patients

Frequently asked questions about the temporary changes to stroke services 

For more background information read our FAQs here  

Read our update, provided to the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (July 2017) on the Kent County Council website