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NHS chiefs back calls for east Kent medical school to address shortage of doctors

PUBLISHED: 11:45 02 November 2017

Kent & Canterbury Hospital

Kent & Canterbury Hospital

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A lack of medical professionals has particularly impacted services at Kent & Canterbury Hospital

NHS chiefs have thrown their weight behind calls for a medical school in east Kent to address a dramatic shortage of GPs and hospital doctors.

MPs and campaigners have made the case for several months as pressure continues to grow on health services in the east of the county.

The trust running Kent & Canterbury Hospital controversially announced earlier this year that some 35 people who normally attend by ambulance every day with conditions such as heart attacks, strokes and pneumonia, would instead be diverted to the William Harvey in Ashford and the QEQM in Margate.

The changes, which health chiefs insist are only temporary, but have been in place since June, are the result of the trust struggling to recruit enough permanent consultants, though some vacancies have been filled in recent weeks.

Long-term, the trust wants to “reorganise” its services at the three hospitals and is set to bring proposals forward for public consultation in the spring.

Meanwhile, hundreds of patients in Folkestone are yet to be reallocated a new GP after a major surgery closed its doors for good earlier this week, sparking fears of increased pressure on A&E departments in other areas of the county.

Hazel Carpenter, accountable officers for the east Kent clinical commissioning groups, which plan local healthcare said: “We have a serious shortage of GPs as well as hospital doctors.

“On top of this at least 20 per cent of GPs in east Kent are nearing retirement. We also have too many locum doctors covering vacancies in our hospitals.

“A medical school would mean we could attract and train people, many of whom will want to be part of the permanent medical workforce in east Kent.

“It will also help to raise the ambition and educational attainment of children and young people in east Kent. The universities, NHS and whole community are united on this – we must have a medical school.”

East Kent Hospitals Trust’s deputy chief executive Liz Shutler said despite east Kent being “a great place to live”, there needed to be more way of attracting staff.

In the UK there is a national shortage of consultants in some key specialties, such as A&E, elderly care and stroke.

Bosses say this is made worse in east Kent because staff and services are spread too thinly across too many sites.

Medical director Dr Paul Stevens added: “We have shown how having the right support and training attracts staff.

“East Kent Hospitals’ renal service provides nationally renowned first-class care for kidney patients for the whole of east Kent, Maidstone and Medway driven by a strong emphasis on teaching and research.

“Because we have the staff and equipment located together on one site for highly specialised services, and we are not stretching the service or the staff too thinly, patients get better, faster care, recover more quickly and spend less time in hospital.

“Allied to that we provide as much kidney care as possible locally through a number of satellite units across east and west Kent.”

Meanwhile the trust enjoyed an improved performance in the number of of patients being seen, treated, admitted to a hospital bed or discharged within four hours last month, but there are concerns that the figures remain among the worst in the country.

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