• NHS in Kent booking hotels for staff in anticipation of “gridlocked roads”
  • NHS leaders also planning to work with police to transport patients and staff to hospital
  • Local source says they are “preparing for Armageddon”

The NHS in Kent is block-booking hotel rooms for staff and planning with police to get workers and patients through “gridlocked roads” to hospitals as part of preparations for a no-deal Brexit “Armageddon”.

Kent’s major ports at Dover, Folkestone and Ramsgate are all predicted to struggle with processing incoming vehicles under a no-deal Brexit, which is expected to cause havoc on the county’s strained road infrastructure.

One senior figure in the planning of Kent’s response to a no-deal Brexit told HSJ: “Hotel rooms have been booked for people in the command teams and if it is no deal then we are planning for Armageddon, which I guess is better than not planning for Armageddon.”

East Kent University Hospitals Foundation Trust “will be very badly affected”, the source said. The trust’s two main sites are both close to ports at Folkstone and Dover. 

According to analysis commissioned by the Department of Transport, revealed earlier this week, vehicles could face a two-day delay at Dover in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Meanwhile, the local road infrastructure is already struggling due to maintenance and upgrade work closing lanes.

“The roads to [East Kent’s] two of its main hospitals [at Canterbury and Ashford will get] blocked very quickly,” the source said. ”We will have to get the police to run patients and staff through it.

“Our main problems as the local team will be getting patients and staff to and from hospital. The roads are very likely to be completely gridlocked and we’re expecting significant travel disruption for a number of months through Kent.

“I had heard the hospitals were block-booking hotel rooms for staff also.”

East Kent University Hospitals FT confirmed it has “booked a small number of hotel rooms close to our emergency hospitals as a precautionary measure, for an initial two-week period”.

The William Harvey Hospital, the local major trauma centre near Ashford, is particularly vulnerable because it is located just off the M20, which is already facing significant delays and disruption due to long-term upgrade work.

Another senior source from a local provider said trusts had followed national guidance and were also working very closely with local emergency services in a way “very similar to major incident planning”.

The news follows HSJ revealing earlier this year Kent Community Health FT was set to ask staff to sleep at their workplace if travel was disrupted under a no-deal Brexit, under plans drawn up ahead of the original March Brexit deadline.

The trust was also preparing to make more use of the voluntary sector and alternative ways of communicating, such as carrying out meetings on Skype for Business, according to its board papers

It also struck an agreement with Boots for 24-hour access to medicines through an on-call pharmacist, if there were difficulties in getting supplies.

East Kent University Hospitals FT added in a statement: “Like the rest of the NHS, East Kent Hospitals is putting preparations in place to ensure essential services for patients would continue to be available if local traffic routes were disrupted, in the same way it prepares for other potential disruptions, from heavy snowfall to flooding.”

The trust said that, as well as booking hotel rooms, its prepartions included “reviewing staffing rosters to ensure enough staff would be able to get to work in the event of traffic disruption and ensuring staff have adequate warning of any potential difficulty in getting to or from work”.