PERFORMANCE: Dartford and Gravesham Trust was forced to close its accident and emergency department to admissions for the first time, after running out of beds earlier this month.  

The trust’s main site, Darent Valley Hospital, closed to admissions on 3 January for six and a half hours. Ambulance crews were diverted to neighbouring hospitals in Gillingham, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells.

David Woodhead, clinical accountable officer for the new Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley Clinical Commissioning Group, said the hospital had “reached its full capacity” and “therefore had to close for a short time until beds became available”.

Dr Woodhead added: “Throughout the short closure, which lasted from 5.00am until 11.30 am, we liaised closely with all our partners at other hospitals in the region, the ambulance service, Kent County Council and GP surgeries to manage the current demand effectively.” 

Since early 2011 the trust has been pursuing a merger with Medway Foundation Trust, which has one main hospital site as well. The draft business case for the merger stated that neither trust in its current form was “clinically or financially sustainable”.

In particular, the document noted that a “strategic solution” was required for Dartford and Gravesham to “prevent a deterioration of clinical services and a diminishing quality of care and patient experience”.

The two organisations submitted detailed plans to Monitor and the Department of Health in November and hope to have an outcome in the spring.