STRUCTURE: East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust will launch a public consultation into moving its emergency services into one hospital later this year.

The trust plans to consult with the public in September over a proposal to move high risk and emergency services to one site, supported by a network of local “base” hospitals that would provide diagnostic services and less urgent treatments.

East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust

The trust previously planned to centralise surgical services at Kent and Canterbury Hospital

The location for main hospital has not been decided. The trust runs three acute hospitals in Margate, Ashford and Canterbury and has two accident and emergency departments.

Under the proposal there would be a single A&E department with urgent care centres on the surrounding sites.

The trust has identified that one risk to the proposal going ahead could be a change in the “political environment” after the election that might not support centralising district general hospital services.

In January last year the trust agreed to put together plans to move towards a single high risk and emergency hospital.

Since then teams have worked on plans for different areas including paediatrics, surgery and outpatients.

The trust hopes the reconfiguration will “ensure the clinical sustainability of quality services” and that it is “financially sustainable”.

In the trust’s January board papers, an update from Thanet Clinical Commissioning Group said: “These changes are needed to address the significant workforce, quality and financial challenges facing the trust currently which are expected to worsen unless service reconfiguration takes place.”

At the beginning of 2014-15 the trust planned to deliver a £3.5m surplus but as of March its position had worsened to an £8m deficit.

Conversations with trust staff, clinicians, CCGs and GPs have helped inform the proposal.

The surgical team at the trust have decided on a preferred option for its services, which would see all emergency and high risk elective surgery performed at the main site, with day case surgery and low to medium risk inpatient elective surgery at the surrounding sites.

The trust previously planned to centralise surgical services at Kent and Canterbury Hospital because of a shortage of clinicians.

However, this idea was dropped after clinicians resisted the plans. During a Care Quality Commission’s inspection in March last year inspectors said that staff did not feel they had been consulted with over these proposals.

HSJ previously reported that the trust had plans to sell one of its sites and build a new hospital south of Canterbury.

The trust’s director of strategy and business development, Rachel Jones, said: “We are currently engaging staff and with external partners, including the public, in developing a 5-10 year clinical strategy. We are considering a number of options including a high risk and emergency hospital supported by base hospitals. No final decision has been made and we expect to clarify the options and undertake a public consultation later this year.”