• Consultation on A&E reconfiguration in east Kent delayed until later this year or next year
  • CCGs had hoped to put proposals to the public this spring
  • Capital funding requirements will need to be scrutinised

Plans to consult on much needed changes to accident and emergency services in east Kent are being pushed back.

The four east Kent clinical commissioning groups had expected to go to public consultation on changes to A&E services in the spring.

However, a combination of more work being needed on the details of the proposals and new requirements on assessment of the capital needed mean this will be delayed.

The CCGs have not indicated when it might be feasible to go to public consultation but this could be the last months of this year or early 2019.

Getting a firm plan in place – even if it takes time to implement – is seen as key to attracting staff to the area.

There are two proposals being considered as a “medium list” of options.

One would see the major A&E for the area and many specialist services based at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, with an A&E retained at the Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, Hospital in Thanet and GP led urgent care centre at the Kent and Canterbury in Canterbury.

The second would see a new build hospital adjacent to the Kent and Canterbury, creating a site for a single A&E and specialist services for the whole area. The other two hospitals would have GP led urgent care centres with diagnostics, day surgery, outpatient services and rehabilitation. This option would be partly funded by a developer that has offered to build a hospital shell in return for planning permission for 2,000 homes elsewhere in the area.

It is not certain that both options will make it through the remaining assessment stages to go to consultation.

Caroline Selkirk, managing director of the east Kent CCGs, told councillors several stages still needed to be completed before public consultation could start. These include:

  • The CCGs have used external consultants to look initially at what information they would need for a pre-consultation business case and then to help develop that case.
  • The business case must be informed by public and stakeholder engagement. One event has been held in Canterbury and others will follow when more detail on the proposals is available.
  • A whole system simulation exercise will be held to stress test the proposals.
  • NHS England and NHS Improvement will need to assess the sustainability and affordability of the proposals. Capital funding requirements will be scrutinised.

A spokesman for the east Kent CCGs said: “Applying evaluation criteria, which has been developed with the public and clinicians, to the list of potential options to reach the shortlist for public consultation will be done once we have gathered all our data, through a transparent process which will again involve clinicians and members of the public.

“Once we have a shortlist of established proposals to go to public consultation, there will be a rigorous assurance process before the consultation launches. We have established a joint committee of CCGs in east Kent who will take the final decision about which options should go out to public consultation. It is a process that requires a great deal of hard work and, while it is being progressed as quickly as possible, it is not possible currently to give a date for when consultation will start.”