Nothing is more important than knowing you and your loved ones will receive the best possible care. That is why healthcare in Dover and Deal is right at the top of my agenda.
I've been fighting to get more services for our area. So I am delighted that this week we received confirmation of a new £2.4 million project to provide extra GP services at Buckland and Deal Hospital. "Primary care hubs" will work out of ten rooms across both sites. They will be open 8am to 8pm seven days a week, delivering 110,000 appointments per year – meaning more people can be treated locally.
The new GP services will also help ease the pressure on A&E. Health bosses told me that in November, more than a third of east Kent A&E attendances only needed minor injury or GP services. They estimate the new hubs will save 13,000 inappropriate A&E attendances.
We know that across the country the NHS is busy, as it always is at this time of year. Cold weather and flu puts pressure on hardworking hospital staff. Yet independent health bosses agree preparation has been "more extensive and meticulous than ever before". In east Kent, we have secured £3.42 million more to cope with winter pressures – equivalent to an extra 150 nurses.
So far, things seem to be improving. Last summer our trust was rated one of the worst in the country for A&E performance. I raised my concerns with the new leadership team and they came up with an improvement plan. Ten specialist emergency doctors were recruited. Several new treatment units were opened at the William Harvey in Ashford and the QEQM in Margate. This was all thanks to £800,000 of capital investment we secured from central government.
Back in August, 70% of A&E patients in east Kent were seen within the target time. By November, despite almost 2,500 more attendances, the figure had risen to 80%. Things still need to get better – but it shows the investment and improvement plan are working. The extra GP services at Buckland and Deal will be a huge boost too.
It shows how far we have come since 2010. In Deal, our much-loved hospital was in grave danger. Now we are getting more and more services. Staff numbers are up 17% on last year. In Dover, Buckland Hospital was decimated over the previous decade. We got a £24 million facility built in its place. Twice as many clinics are now operating than when it first opened. A cataract surgery theatre is opening in the next few weeks, saving people long trips out of town for treatment.
Long term, we are fighting for a new medical school in Kent. It will be a huge help in recruiting more GPs locally, giving us a sustainable local health model for years to come.
My priority is for everyone in Dover and Deal to get the first class healthcare they deserve.
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!