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‘Round-the-clock’ Urgent Treatment Centres set to open in west Kent in radical healthcare shake-up

PUBLISHED: 13:59 11 July 2017 | UPDATED: 15:16 11 July 2017

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Doctor writing

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Plans are also being unveiled to enable access to GP care from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday, by March 2019

Centres for urgent, but not emergency treatment, are set to open at two west Kent hospitals in a radical shake-up of the way healthcare is provided.

The new Urgent Treatment Centres, which will be open round-the-clock, will be created alongside the A&E departments at Maidstone Hospital and Tunbridge Wells Hospital.

The plans have been unveiled to allow patients with urgent issues to be seen by GPs or nurses, while freeing up time in emergency departments for consultants and their teams.

Mental health workers, social care workers and therapists will all be part of the teams at the centres, offering advice and support to patients.

Bosses say there will also be improved facilities for the assessment and treatment of both children and frail patients.

Building work on the centres is due to start later this year at both hospitals thanks to £645,000 of NHS England funding and to support its development, the current out of hours GP services at Tonbridge Cottage Hospital, Sevenoaks Hospital and Cranbrook are being reviewed.

It is proposed to relocate them from their current bases to the two main hospital sites at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells where better facilities exist.

The relocation of the current out of hours bases will be in a phased approach, starting with Tonbridge Cottage Hospital by September 30 this year, followed by Cranbrook, with Sevenoaks anticipated to be re-located by April 1, 2019.

These are for people who are referred by NHS 111 for a GP appointment when their practice is closed.

The proposals are due to be discussed at a public meeting at West Kent College, Tonbridge, on July 18 from 4pm until 7pm.

Meanwhile, plans are also being developed to enable access to GP care in every part of west Kent between 8am and 8pm, Monday to Friday, by March 2019, with weekend slots at times to be decided.

These plans and changes to local care will be discussed at further meetings during July and August.

Dr Mark Whistler, urgent care lead for NHS West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “GPs, pharmacists, dentists and more nurses, including emergency nurse practitioners, will be on hand to deal with patient enquiries to NHS 111 calls so many more people can get the advice they need first time.

“We are also delighted about the Urgent Treatment Centres which are a really exciting development for people in west Kent and will make a big difference to patient care.

“For a long time we have known that significant numbers of people come to A&E when they don’t have a strict medical need to do so, because they don’t know what else to do or want the reassurance of being seen at the hospital.

“Once the Urgent Treatment Centres are open, patients who come to the hospital but need to see a nurse or GP, will do so.

“Then if it turns out their case is more serious than it might appear, they can be swiftly moved into A&E, where the consultant-led teams will take care of them.

“Meanwhile, A&E teams will be able to concentrate on those patients who need the specialist care only they can provide.”

The meetings, run by the CCG, with colleagues from social care, community health, mental health, and public health, will also hear about developments in local care, to provide better access to care and support in people’s own communities.

These focus on strengthening general practice and overcoming barriers between health and care services so staff from different organisations can work together as a team to provide good care for patients and cope with rising demand.

“There’s a lot of stuff in the media about the NHS being in crisis,” said Dr Bob Bowes, Chair of NHS West Kent CCG, the GP-led body that has responsibility for buying all the healthcare services for the area.

“But actually the changes that are necessary in the NHS will be good for people.

“There are technological advances that we are embracing, new ways of doing things that will save time for patients and staff, and benefits to be had from joining things up in a way that they haven’t been before.

“I would urge people to please make the time to come and tell us what they think of our plans.”

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