Last Rites for Kent’s NHS

A&E provision in East Kent is among the worst in the country. Not only have the closure of Emergency Departments in Dover and Canterbury left outlying communities with a potentially 40-minute drive to their nearest A&E, but recent figures released also show that poor consultant provision and huge waits that welcome the injured when they do arrive.

Ambulances struggling to cope with winter illness

Each time that LabourMum checked online to ascertain the current waiting times at East Kent A&Es (checking 8 times in the past week), William Harvey Hospital in Ashford was posting waiting times of ‘Over 4 Hours’. Even with only 10 patients in A&E in Ashford, a new arrival would typically have to wait over 4 hours.

More scandalously, figures released recently in response to a Freedom of Information request, show that the A&E department at William Harvey Hospital was without any consultant provision during ordinary working hours Monday-Friday for a total of 250 hours in 2016. This means, there are an average 5 hours in every Monday-Friday week where you could turn up to A&E to find absolutely no consultants ready to help treat you.


Reviews of William Harvey A&E care in January on show that some vulnerable patients have been left on trollies overnight, without food, drink and assistance with toileting. Other reviewers talk about being treated with an abject lack of ‘dignity and respect’. A further review from December 2016 wrote from the waiting room: ‘I arrived at the William Harvey hospital at 11.30pm’ the anonymous reviewer said, ‘and am still waiting to be seen at 6am it’s not the doctors or nurses fault I know there doing the best they can its all down to the government… (sic)’

The picture is of course, even more perilous at weekends. Some hospital trusts have no consultants at all working at weekends in Emergency Departments, although across East Kent Universities Trust (QEQM in Margate and William Harvey in Ashford) there is a consultant present in A&E for 8 hours on Saturday and Sunday. This is still not good enough. A friend’s daughter recently admitted to A&E on a Sunday evening at 9pm, waited 4 hours, despite only two other souls seemingly waiting (endlessly) for their own treatment.

With a 23.3% increase in the over 65 population of East Kent forecast for the next 10 years, the Emergency Care situation is now intolerable. Facilities (QEQM in Margate) are archaic and need re-building completely. Which political party is going to say it? We need to raise taxes, perhaps even a specific new tax or complete reformation of National Insurance, to pay for our NHS. Missed appointments with ordinary G.P.s should be paid for (some exceptions of course for those whose illnesses actually prevented attendance) and G.P. facilities absolutely should stretch to at least Saturdays. All G.P. surgeries should aim for turn-up-on-the-morning-and-be-seen provision, as is proving immensely successful in Whitstable, Kent. Further suggestions include raising VISA fees for visitors to the UK with the specific aim of balancing the cost of health tourism upon our shattered and broken health system.


In 1942 the Beverage report identifies the ‘Giants’ of the day as being Want, Ignorance, Disease, Squalor and Idleness. Times have changed and the diseases of ’46 (Tuberculosis, Polio, Measles) have been replaced by the new problems of an increasingly elderly and obese population (Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Diabetes). Want, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness continue to afflict the U.K. It is time for a new ‘Beverage Report’ for the Twenty-First Century. We are not too late to save our NHS, but this time next year we might well be.

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