Around Britain

NHS under threat

Kent County Councillor, Karen Constantine, reports on the way the NHS in Thanet is being stripped out.

In recent months vital health services in Thanet have been subject to a range of blows, as the Tories continue their ideological attack on our NHS. Thanet has extremely poor health outcomes, high rates of disability and the highest stroke rates in Kent. It also has the second highest child poverty rates in the south of England and the highest in Kent. Factor into this a discrepancy of 15 years in respect of life expectancy between the poorer areas of Thanet and wealthy areas in Kent such as Royal Tunbridge Wells, and declining life expectancy and rising infant mortality.

Maternity Services at QEQM, the local hospital in Margate have been rated by the CQC repeatedly as failing. The Trust was recently taken to court for criminal negligence and found guilty.

GPs are stretched to breaking point. The patient to GP ratio falls far short of what we could reasonably expect. The national patient ratio is 1,750 patients per GP. In Margate 6,000 patients share one GP. And that number is increasing. We have no NHS dentists currently taking in patients.

Recently we were informed that Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid, has confirmed the closure of acute stroke services at QEQM. Residents will now be forced to travel more than an hour to services located 40 miles away. This will cost lives and result in preventable disability.

As the County Councillor holding the portfolio for Health across Kent, I’m particularly worried that the rate of strokes in Thanet is stubbornly high; moving stroke services from the very place they are needed most is simply stupid. Thanet residents are losing their stroke unit, but also the A&E and Maternity Unit are now also effectively under threat of closure. Taking out vital services effectively hollows out a hospital, making recruitment into the other areas that much more difficult.

We are in a classic defund and denude scenario where future failure is being baked in. The tactic is to underfund services and then keep restructuring, just keep the pieces moving!

In the last decade the Conservatives have refused to invest in the NHS and have failed to address two fundamental area, access to training and pay. This abject failure has resulted in a recruitment and retention catastrophe. In areas like Thanet we can no longer recruit or retain the vital clinical staff we need. The BMA are rightly calling for a renewed duty of accountability and responsibility for all workforce issues to be placed on the Secretary of State.

Will Thanet be the first place where the NHS falls over? It’s certainly looks that way.

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