Story header image a new hospital for Canterbury

A new hospital for Canterbury or pre-election bluster?

Boris Johnson’s announcement of a new hospital for Canterbury is highly questionable. Firstly the Conservatives made an announcement of £13 billion for 40 new hospitals. It’s worth noting that none of those new hospitals was a mental health trust, as ever the ‘poor relation’.

Almost all of the proposed hospitals will be built in key marginal constituencies, such as Barrow, Reading and Torquay. In reality, fact checking showed that that money turned out to be just £2.7b for six new hospitals. A new hospital for Canterbury wasn’t even on the original list!

This particular announcement is also less than straight forward. In fact no one seems to know about it, not the local Canterbury MP, Rosie Duffield, nor the Canterbury Clinical Commissioning Group.

North Thanet MP, Roger Gale on the other hand says, “I welcome investment in a new building to replace the existing premises that are currently used by many of my constituents and indeed by myself. This does not, however, represent a proposal for a new ‘super-hospital’ centralising services which, if ever constructed, would need to be at a different and geographically better transport location to serve the whole of East Kent”.

The lack of clarity is disappointing for the people of Canterbury no doubt, who are desperate to see their NHS services improved. Let’s face it Canterbury Hospital needs more than a facelift.

However, the promotion and promise of new 40 hospitals warrants further scrutiny. The key to a successful NHS is the fixing the ‘mission critical’ shortage of staff. Where will the extra doctors, nurses and midwives come from? We have a drastic shortage of 40,000 nurses, midwives and doctors. That problem must be fixed if we are to staff a new hospital for Canterbury.

We are already seeing busted A&E waiting targets right across the UK, winter pressures all year round and GP practices full. In Thanet, for instance there are no more spaces for new patients and there are long waits for appointments for existing patients. Add to this the lack of NHS dental treatment locally, not to mention the UK having the poorest cancer outcomes in Europe and we see the frightening list of stuff to fix.

I’m not opposed to developing and expanding services at Canterbury, but much more needs to done to boost the numbers of clinicians. I do not wish to see Canterbury, Thanet and Ashford residents set against each other. We need a coherent and costed plan.

In Thanet I am now calling for a ‘round table’ discussion to take place in December with the NHS decision makers to discuss how we can better recruit and retain staff for Thanet in a sustainable way. We need to look at what we can do to appeal to staff to live and work in Thanet and whether we are marketing Thanet to the best effect. What can be done with housing and key worker status? What other steps need to be taken?

I’m fearful that a development at Canterbury could potentially lead to the loss of the A&E at QEQM and the downgrading of our maternity services. Currently 2,800 women per year can use local maternity services.

Frankly it’s sad and serious that we have a Prime Minister who is so opportunistic about our NHS, at a time when most of us are realising sound bites won’t fix the Tory years of underinvestment. Is this just blatant electioneering?

On BBC Radio Kent discussing a new hospital for Canterbury

This afternoon I was invited onto John Warnett’s drivetime programme to provide early comment on the Prime Minister’s announcement. Listen to the recording below.

NHS film night in Ramsgate

For those interested we are holding a film on 15th October at the Comfort Inn Ramsgate 7.00, all are welcome to listen to Dr Bob Gill talk about what’s happening to the NHS and to see the film ‘The Sell Off’, about the abolition of your NHS.

We have so much to do if we are going to save our NHS.