• Estimated cost of redeveloping William Harvey Hospital more than doubles to £351m
  • Meanwhile, projected costs of the alternative option – a new hospital in Canterbury – grow from £250m to £363m

The cost of a planned hospital reconfiguration in Kent has rocketed, with one option now estimated to cost twice as much as forecast 18 months ago.

Proposals to redevelop the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford to provide a major emergency and specialist care centre for all of east Kent were estimated to cost £160m when first revealed in November 2017. This increased to £170m in July 2018, but Kent and Medway sustainability and transformation partnership’s draft response to the NHS long-term plan now prices the project at £351m. 

An alternative proposal — which involves a developer building a shell for a new hospital in Canterbury to adjoin to Kent and Canterbury Hospital and provide accident and emergency services, specialist services and a major maternity centre for the area — was costed at £250m in July 2018 but has now risen to £363m. The proposal assumes the developer, Quinn Estates, would cover the cost of the shell building in return for planning permission for 2,000 homes elsewhere in the city.

The increased estimates will be problematic for East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust, which will have to meet the public dividend capital payments associated with the project. Both the new estimates are likely to result in around £22m of payments per year for the trust. The system will also have to be able to secure national funding for the scheme in the first place.

The east Kent reconfiguration is not one the government has earmarked for money, although, before the election, Boris Johnson suggested there could be a new hospital for Canterbury.

The joint committee of east Kent’s clinical commissioning groups — Ashford, Thanet, South Kent Coast, and Canterbury and Coastal — has previously set a cut-off point for repayments of £25m a year for evaluating options.

The change in estimated costs — which has led to both projects being similarly priced — could also up the chances of the Canterbury option being picked.

Under the option to redevelop William Harvey Hospital; the Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, Hospital in Margate would keep an A&E and consultant-led maternity unit. However, under the option to build a new hospital in Canterbury, there would be only GP-led urgent treatment centres in Ashford and Margate, and a midwife-led unit in Margate.

The William Harvey option would also require some patients to travel up to 40 miles for treatment. The Canterbury option would be more central but would move major services out of Ashford and mean the loss of some services in the Thanet district. 

A spokesman for the four East Kent CCGs said the costs in the draft long-term plan response were still “provisional”, adding: “Final cost estimates will be included in the pre-consultation business case which will be published as part of launching a public consultation later this year, following review by NHS England/NHS Improvement.”

He continued: “We are committed to investing in east Kent’s hospitals to deliver the improvements we want to see for our patients, as part of a stronger and more joined up local health and care system.”