• Proposed new hospital would be too small to house day surgery and outpatients
  • Alternatives include other hospitals or GP surgeries
  • Consultation likely to be “later next year”

Day surgery and outpatient clinics could largely move out of Canterbury if a proposal to site an emergency and specialist hospital in the city go ahead.

A new hospital, built alongside the existing Kent and Canterbury Hospital, is one of two options being considered in a major reconfiguration of services across East Kent. The other option would see emergency and specialist services centralised at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford.

But new details of the proposals released today by the East Kent clinical commissioning groups reveal that the Canterbury option would not provide enough space to house outpatients and day surgery and new locations would have to be found.

This might be at GP surgeries and other facilities “in the Canterbury area” – examples given include the Estuary View practice site in Whitstable, eight miles away, the hospital site in Margate, or the Buckland Hospital in Dover.

All consultant-led maternity and inpatient children’s services would be based in Canterbury if that option was adopted but the four CCGs have said they want to hear whether women would use standalone midwifery units.

A standalone unit was established at the Kent and Canterbury when consultant-led births were removed in the last round of reconfigurations in the early 2000s. Both this and a standalone unit in Dover were closed by East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust in 2012 amid staffing difficulties.

The CCGs are now holding a series of eight “listening events” as part of pre-consultation engagement to explain not just the hospital proposals but also potential changes to other services including the development of urgent care centres by the end of next year.

However, the options for an emergency and specialist hospital will still need to be assessed by NHS Improvement and NHS England for sustainability and affordability as each requires significant capital spend – a process which is expected to take some months. Only then will the CCGs be able to go to public consultation on one or more options, something which was originally expected to happen in spring this year. The CCGs now expect consultation to take place “later next year.”