Floundering east Kent hospital bosses cannot be trusted with overseeing the future of health services in the area, warn campaigners.
Concern for Health in East Kent (Chek) argues that key decisions on hospital transformation should be passed to Health Secretary Matt Hancock in order to cut through “red tape and financial mess”.
The group fears east Kent’s hospital bosses will be unable to deliver a workable plan given the “dire financial situation” facing the trust and the Clinical Commission Groups (CCGs), which commission services from the trust.
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Earlier this month inspectors from the Care Quality Commission ruled that the trust had failed to lift itself out of its requires improvement rating after identifying numerous critical shortcomings within the organisation.
Chek vice-chairman Martin Vye, a former Liberal Democrat county and district councillor, made his appeal to Kent County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee.
He said: “You have before you reports which spell out the dire financial situation of the east Kent hospitals trust and of the GP organisations — the CCGs — which commission services from the trust.
“The CCGs and the trust have been put in what is called financial special measures because of the growing hole in their budgets. Their combined deficit is currently almost £30 million and rising.
“By December this year the partnership of the trust, CCGs and others have got to put a case for transformation of hospital services in our area to those who hold the purse-strings at national level.
“This transformation is absolutely necessary to bring the standard of hospital care up to the standard residents should be able to expect in a modern health service.
“It beggars belief though to think that the trust and CCGs can get the deficit sufficiently under control in two months to be able to make a robust financial case.
“There is a very grave danger that 2019, instead of being the year when at last a start is made on the improvements we all need, is another year of damaging delay. Ask the Secretary of State to cut through the red tape and this tangled financial mess and make a decision.”
The demand comes in a week where once again appalling conditions were revealed inside east Kent’t accident and emergency departments with patients lying on floors and waiting hours to be seen.
Hospital bosses blamed the problems on people turning up for treatment.
Mr Vye added: “We in Chek want to have the opportunity as soon as possible to make the case for a decision on what we believe to be the best arrangement for hospital services for the whole area.
“This involves a newly built Kent and Canterbury Hospital located in Canterbury, the very centre of east Kent, with a medical school nearby, and able to attract the very best clinical and nursing staff.”
On Tuesday the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust was approached for a comment about Chek’s position.
It replied six days later with a statement which read: “We acknowledge that, in east Kent, as in many other parts of the country, health and care services are not working in the most effective way to meet the growing needs of local people.
“That is why we are working together, as commissioners and providers, to ensure we can provide safe, high quality, joined-up and sustainable health and care services to meet local people’s needs now, and into the future.
“Further opportunities for patients, carers and the public to discuss these ideas with the NHS will be available in coming weeks.”