• EKHUFT looking to move some inpatient services to Canterbury
  • Trust says it would need financial support to invest in theatres
  • Centralisation could come before a planned consultation on setting up elective orthopaedic centres

East Kent Hospital University Foundation Trust is considering centralising its elective orthopaedic services to help it better cope with next winter.

The trust could move some inpatient services from its Ashford and Thanet Hospitals to the Kent and Canterbury Hospital, but will require financial support from national bodies. 

However, the plans come ahead of a consultation expected later in the year on elective orthopaedics. Three of the six initial options – which include both one and two site solutions - would not involve the Kent and Canterbury Hospital, according to documents put out by the area’s clinical commissioning groups last year.

The consultation on elective orthopaedics is expected to run alongside a consultation on emergency and specialist services which would see some services centralised in either Canterbury or Ashford.

In a statement, the trust said it was investing in beds and staff to increase capacity ahead of next winter to reduce the time patients waited for emergency treatment and planned operations. It said it had been invited to take part in a national pilot of Getting It Right First Time to protect elective procedures from cancellation at times of high emergency demand.

“However, the pilot project requires capital investment for additional theatres to provide some planned inpatient orthopaedic procedures at Kent and Canterbury Hospital which would be separate from emergency patients who are seen at the William Harvey Hospital [in Ashford] and the Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother Hospital [in Thanet],” it added

“The pilot would bring an additional benefit for the Kent and Canterbury Hospital as any investment in the site would be of benefit under any of the potential options for the future reconfiguration of hospital services.

“We are scoping how we could take part in the pilot if we were able to access the funds.”

Board papers for the trust suggest two options are under consideration, with an interim solution moving elective orthopaedics from just the William Harvey to the Kent and Canterbury and a longer term solution moving all elective orthopaedics to a single site. However, there is no mention of whether these interim proposals will be put before the health overview and security committee, which could argue they are a major change to services and need consultation.

HSJ reported recently that inpatient vascular services across Kent and Medway could be temporarily centralised on one site – either Medway Foundation Trust or EKHUFT – ahead of a delayed decision. At the moment, services are provided by a small number of clinicians at Medway and the Kent and Canterbury.