• Medway Foundation Trust has given six months notice on dermatology service
  • Staffing issues have led to long waits for first appointments
  • CCGs want community-based service

A foundation trust is to withdraw from a dermatology contract after hundreds of suspected cancer patients had to wait up to five weeks for a first appointment.

Medway Foundation Trust has given six months’ notice on dermatology services for Swale, Medway and Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley CCG areas after seeing 200 patients breaching the week waits during the past month.

Figures for June and July were 35 and 60. The problems are understood to have started after the lead consultant for the service retired and locums were difficult to recruit – but then the position deteriorated rapidly over the summer when staff took annual leave.

The trust sees about 400 patients a month with suspected skin cancer, according to NHS England statistics.

It has also given notice on rheumatology services in the Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley area.

The decision to stop providing these services is part of a planned withdrawal from areas where services could be better provided through a more community-based model, the trust says.

Lesley Dwyer, chief executive, added: “Ensuring that our patients receive treatment in a timely manner is of the upmost importance to us and we accept that the delays some patients are currently experiencing are unacceptable.

“We have agreed a joint plan with our commissioners to address these issues and improve waiting times.”

Stuart Jeffery, chief operating officer for Medway CCG, said the CCG was in the process of procuring a new community-based dermatology service to run from April 2019.

“Our long-term aim is very much to improve the dermatology service overall and provide more clinics within the community, closer to people’s homes,” he said.

An interim reconfiguration of vascular services in Kent and Medway is expected to see it lose inpatient arterial services, which are likely to be temporarily centralised at Kent and Canterbury Hospital ahead of a longer term centralisation - which may be at whichever site is chosen for the East Kent major emergency and specialised hospital. Medway will retain vascular work.

Last week Medway also heard it was not recommended as one of the three hyper acute and acute stroke centres in the area.