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Health and care leaders set out case for change for services in Thanet and across east Kent

Plans to transform local health and care services in Thanet stepped up a gear today (Thursday 4 August 2016) as local NHS and social care organisations published a new document, Better health and care in east Kent: time to change, setting out hard-hitting reasons why services need to be transformed if they are to be fit for the future.

Over the last six months, local NHS doctors, nurses, clinicians, social care workers and leaders have been getting together to talk about what needs to change and share thinking about ways to make that happen. Better health and care in east Kent: time to change is the result of these conversations and presents a comprehensive view of how despite their best efforts, health and social care organisations are under real strain to deliver the services that local people need, to the standards that they should expect.

Key highlights from the document include:

  • Services which were designed to meet the needs of local people in the 1960s, 70s and 80s are no longer fit for purpose and need to be redesigned to meet the needs of people in 2020 and beyond.

  • A growing and ageing population means that east Kent’s population will grow by more than 21,000 people by 2020.

  • While people are living longer, they are also more likely to have several complex conditions (including dementia, heart disease, diabetes and asthma) that need careful management across health and social care systems – at the moment, that join-up isn’t working well enough for local people.

  • Too many people are being treated in hospital when they could be treated in their homes or in the community. At any one time in east Kent there are around 300 people in acute hospital beds who could be discharged if the right support was available elsewhere.

  • People in east Kent want to be treated closer to home. Health and social care organisations need to work more closely together to make that happen.

  • Twenty-five per cent of people in east Kent are affected by a mental health issue – getting to grips with mental as well as physical well-being is essential if people are to lead and live healthier and happier lives.

  • More needs to be done to keep people well and out of hospital in the first place; making sure that people have access to services to help them manage or improve their health and well-being such as smoking cessation and advice on pregnancy and early years’ health.

  • Services are under strain with some over capacity 50 per cent of the time and all services forecasted to be over capacity 50 per cent of the time by 2020.

  • In east Kent we are not meeting national quality standards all of the time and there is variation in the care we offer to patients.

  • In hospitals, there are not enough staff to cover 24/7 rotas, 15 per cent of patients are waiting more than four hours in A&E and a rising number of people are waiting more than two weeks for an urgent cancer referral.

  • Budgets are tight and getting tighter with a projected financial deficit of £25 million each year across the system. If we do nothing and carry on as we are now by 2026 the difference between what we have to spend and our costs will be £367 million.

  • Large numbers of health and social care staff are due to retire in the next five to 10 years meaning that recruitment will be a major issue unless health and social care services work smarter.

Speaking about the case for change, Dr Sarah Phillips, local GP and chair of the East Kent Strategy Board which has overseen the development of the document, said: “People in Thanet are aware that health and care services are under increasing pressure. In some areas we are now unable to deliver expected standards of care all of the time. We believe services can and should be better. Better health and care in east Kent: time to change describes why we need to take action now to make sure health and social care in east Kent is able to meet the challenges and demands of the 21st century.”

Better health and care in east Kent: time to change sets out an ambitious vision for the future including shifting more investment and resources to family doctors and nurses and community care providers, making a wider range of services easier to access. Additionally, teams of health and social care professionals working together in local communities will mean care is more joined up. This should, in turn, lead to fewer hospital admissions.

Dr Tony Martin, Clinical Chair of NHS Thanet Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and member of the East Kent Strategy Board said, “Big hospitals are often not that convenient for patients, their families and carers and are expensive to run. Finding ways to offer more services in the community and to reduce hospital admissions that don’t need to happen and could be better managed at home is key to driving up quality and balancing budgets. By focusing on developing community teams of health and social care professionals who all know and understand the needs of individual patients, ongoing health problems can be identified and acted upon much more quickly when they arise, preventing them from getting worse. It also means we can offer more care in or close to home, which we know is what most people want. Big hospitals will still be there when we need them, and will be able to work more efficiently and to a higher standard as a result of being under less pressure.”

Over the coming weeks and months there will be opportunities for local people to share their views on how services should be planned and delivered. To find out more about how to be part of that conversation, visit

Click here for the 'BETTER HEALTH AND CARE IN EAST KENT' leaflet.

Clive Hart
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