28 JUN 2018

Delivering a fairer share of healthcare for our community

It's now three years since Dover's new Buckland Hospital was opened. So it's a good moment to look at how far we've come in delivering a fairer share of healthcare for our area. And the challenges we still face.

Things are a far cry from how they used to be back in 2010. We all remember how Buckland Hospital was decimated over a decade. Services were withdrawn and wards axed one by one. While Deal Hospital was left teetering on the edge.

Yet after hard-fought community campaigns, we got the new £24 million Dover hospital built – and the future of Deal hospital was secured.

Meanwhile, we've also won the battle for a new £30 million East Kent medical school, meaning more doctors and nurses can be trained locally. Around £200 million is going towards upgrading East Kent's A&E departments. A new £2.3 million GP hub has just opened. Doctors and nurses are working out of ten rooms at both Buckland and Deal hospitals, seven days a week – so more people can be treated locally. Deal Hospital staff numbers are up a fifth. Twice as many clinics are now operating at Buckland than in 2015.

We're getting more healthcare provided locally. Yet I believe we can do more – starting with bringing the vital wet AMD eye treatment to Buckland Hospital. It's not right that elderly people who struggle with their sight are having to make long journeys to Ashford and Canterbury. So I have been pressing health chiefs to put patients first and bring this key service closer to home.

Incredibly nearly 30% of Buckland Hospital remains unused. There is clearly an opportunity to bring more services to our area. So I recently discussed what new services East Kent Hospitals could provide at Buckland with chief executive Susan Acott. She is now looking at whether specialist elderly care services – including treatment for conditions such as Parkinson's – can be brought to Buckland. Meanwhile, at Deal hospital there is a great opportunity for more COPD, respiratory and rehab services.

It's vital to invest in mental health treatment too. New figures show that 150 young people in Kent suffering from mental health problems are waiting more than a year for treatment to start. This is simply unacceptable. Mental health is just as important as physical health – and it must be treated that way.

Recently I learnt of plans to slash hours at Deal Mental Health Centre. I immediately contacted health chiefs, demanding a rethink. They have now agreed to keep this vital service open five days a week.

Last week a £20 billion funding boost was announced for the NHS. This is great news – yet this cash must be spent wisely on providing more healthcare, not more bureaucracy and waste.

We need to see more doctors and nurses, improvements to social care – and healthcare provided as close as possible to home. That's why it's so important to keep up the fight for a fairer share of healthcare in our area.


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Charlie Elphicke

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