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News Private care for NHS patients GPs can now refer NHS patients to Kent’s newest private hospital for treatment.

More than 200 NHS patients are already booked in for a range of treatments at the Kent Institute of Medicine and Surgery (Kims). Kims became part of the NHS e- referral system, formerly known as Choose and Book, on September 1 and patients can opt for a range of treatments to be carried out at the Bearsted hospital, including gen- eral surgery, gynaecology, ophthal- mology, orthopaedics and urology. Not all areas of medicine are cov-

ered under the NHS e-referral scheme and patients are asked to check with their GPs. Chief executive Simon James (pictured) said he was delighted with the uptake from both private and NHS patients. He said: “The hospital was built

in Kent for the people of Kent.We want to draw people in and offer them a different opportunity. We are all about patient choice.” Kims has spot contracts with

three NHS trusts – Maidstone and TunbridgeWells,Medway and East Kent – which means all three can divert patients to Kims when their

waiting lists reach unmanageable standards, helping to keep waiting times down for procedures such as hip and knee replacements. Mr James said: “I see us as an in-

tegral part of the local health econ- omy. We are supporting it, not competing with it.” He added: “We have a popula-

tion of two million people in Kent, who now have the option not to travel to London, with all the time and cost which is involved. “We can also offer jobs to nurses

and people in the medical profes- sion who would otherwise be fac- ing a long commute to the city.” When Kims opened, in April

2014, at a cost of more than £100m, it boasted some of the best high- tech equipment and consultants in the country. It has since carried out a number

of ground-breaking “firsts”, in- cluding open heart and keyhole heart surgery. Therewere expectations it would

break even in the first year, but Mr James said thiswas unrealistic. He said: “I have never seen a

healthcare company make money in its first year. It’s a business that has to be resource-led, as you have to recruit staff before you can take in patients.” He now believes he can reach

that target in year three. He said: “It will be hard work,

but it is achievable. We have had great support from the consultants, which is really good.” Although married in Kent in 1997, after a short spell living in

Keyhole heart surgery a first for Kent

HEART consultant Inderpaul Birdi has carried out Kent’s first-ever key- hole heart surgery at Kims. The patient had severe aortic

valve narrowing and it was decided to repair the valve, rather than re- place it, as the speed of recovery was important. Also, the heart does not beat aswell with amechanical valve. Keyhole surgery involves less bleeding and promotes quicker heal- ing than traditional open heart sur- gery and Kims has a specialist team that delivers this and many other groundbreaking heart procedures. Mr Birdi (pictured), who also runs

The Keyhole Heart Clinic in London and Essex, said: “Few centres in the United Kingdom perform keyhole

covery was very important.” Leading heart specialist Dr Phyllis

surgery presently. For some patients traditional open heart surgery, which is typically used to operate on this condition, is not always the best op- tion and in this case the speed of re-

Holt, founder of Kims, said: “We are delighted Mr Birdi and his team car- ried out this procedure in Kent. To be able to offer this level of consultant- led care to patients in Kent and to provide them with a choice of where and when their surgery takes place were some of our key objectives when establishing the hospital.” The procedure was carried out by making a 2cm incision between ribs on the patient’s right side, just under the breast. A tiny camera was then inserted and cords of Gore-Tex stitched into place to repair tendons so that the aortic valve flaps once again closed properly.

Advice to drivers as park and ride closes

MAIDSTONECouncil has issued advice to drivers, following the news that its Sittingbourne Road park and ride service will close on Monday, February 8. The council has been forced to

give up the service because of the escalating costs of leasing the land near Junction 7 of the M20. Cllr David Burton, chairman of

the town’s transport committee, said he hoped commuters would use one of the other park and ride sites – atWillington Street or Lon- don Road, accessible from Junc- tions 5 and 8 of the M20 – or the

36 Maidstone Town Xmas 2015

Sittingbourne Road long stay car park, which has spare capacity. Some residents can use the Ar-

riva bus service 333 and the coun- cil is encouraging bus companies to introduce services to meet exist- ing and futuredemandin the area. Cllr Burton said:“We are disap- pointed that, despite negotiation, the increased cost to renew the lease for the Sittingbourne Road park and ride site meantwe could- n’t afford to maintain the service there.” The council has been subsidis- ing the site by more than £550,000

per year. “To increase this to cover higher

costs at one site would not offer taxpayers good value for money, and would require service cuts elsewhere,” he said. The council carried out a com- prehensive search for alternative sites in the area before taking the decision to close the site, but high land values meant that no viable alternative could be found. Cllr Burton stressed that the council had no plans to close the Willington Street and London Road sites.

Crouch, near Borough Green, this is Mr James’ first real encounter with the Garden of England. His home is near Basingstoke

where his twosons, aged 11 and 15, are at school and his wife is the pri- mary carer for her mother. Mr James came to Kims from The Manor Hospital, Oxford – one of Nuffield’s flagship centres. He said: “I managed to commute

the 46 miles to Oxford, but 86 miles each way on the worst road in the world [the M25] wasn’t an option, so I stay here during theweek.” He describes running a hospital

as “the best job in the world” and was drawn to Kims by its unique position in the industry. “I wasn’t looking for a new job

but I was captured by the dream. I saw it as an opportunity to do something different and to be part of that dream. Because Kims is in- dependently owned, not one of the many big chains, we can be more flexible. If people are thinking of coming to Kims, come and talk to us. If it’s a question of cost,we will talk to you and see ifwe can help.”

Job vacancies

KIMS threw open its doors to resi- dents looking for a job at an em- ployment fair. A range of vacancies are on offer

for specialist clinical staff, includ- ing staff nurses, a deputy theatre manager, theatre and senior theatre practitioners, theatre support workers, a senior CT radiographer and care support workers. Suzanne Stevens, recruitment manager at the hospital, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to move to a growing hospital. Kims is unique in many of the services it of- fers.”

Aiming high

KIMS chief executive Simon James likes to lead by example. He can often be found running around the lanes of Bearsted and enjoys noth- ing more than hiking up a Scottish mountain or a Lakeland fell. He has set himself a challenge to

climb all of Scotland’s 286 munroes – mountains above 3,000 feet – in 15 years, including Scotland’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis. So far, he has managed 39 in

three years. Women’s day

THE hospital recently held a women’s health open day. There were free 15-minute consultations with some of the hospital’s top con- sultants, on topics ranging from gy- naecology and varicose veins to cosmetic surgery.

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