Everyone thought the fight for a new Dover hospital was lost and that we wouldn't get anything, let alone the beds I have been campaigning for. These expectations have, happily, been confounded. After a lot of meetings behind the scenes, health chiefs are now moving forward on the hospital and the plan now includes beds as well.
The hospital was first proposed in April 2008 following a sustained campaign let by former Labour Leader of Dover District Council, Reg Hansell. It saw a 27,000 signature petition handed into Downing Street. Yet under Labour, the health chiefs said no to the care beds and said the beds would be supplied by local residential homes. All that was proposed was a polyclinic in a car park of Buckland Hospital.
For my part, I campaigned for a proper hospital with real services and beds. Not only have we won the beds. The services are to be upgraded too. Increased outpatient appointments, minor surgery in a procedures suite, therapy services, a day hospital and diagnostic services including mobile MRI and CT services are in the package as well as the beds. Even better, the proposals now include 200 parking spaces.
We didn't win on everything. I wanted the hospital at Whitfield where access is better. And plans to upgrade the minor-injuries unit to a doctor led local emergency centre were vetoed by the local GPs (for now). Still, urgent care will be led by nurse consultants who can write a prescription, so saving many trips to Ashford.
In my book, surgery, care beds, day hospital, diagnostics and emergency services that can write you a prescription is a major step forward. We are moving towards the Dover proper hospital our community so badly needs. The planned parking is excellent. I will keep working to maximise the number of care beds and for doctor led emergency services. Finally, I must pay tribute to Reg Hansell, Pauline Majors, Lorraine Sencicle and all the campaigners without whom we would not be where we are today.
It is a particular achievement as we have had a recession and public finances are shattered but we have managed to get this important investment in the hospital and move it forward. This is why the Conservatives ring fencing of the health budget is so important - and why I oppose Labour's plans to cut healthcare spending.
Here you can read about local news matters and what I've been up to. You can make comments too. I'd welcome your feedback, so please do feel free to comment!