News | Health NHS heroes

hit by thefts HOSPITAL staff looking after COVID-19 patients have become victims of callous car thieves. The criminals waited until the NHS heroes were on shift before stealing catalytic converters from their vehicles.

A Kent Police spokesman said:

“The vehicles, which belonged to staff at Darent Valley Hospital, are understood to have been targeted in Darenth Wood Road between 8am and 5.30pm on January 11.” Anyone who may have seen something suspicious or caught something suspicious on their dashcams, is asked to call 01474 366149 quoting 46/6159/21. You can also contact the inde- pendent charity Crimestoppers in Kent anonymously on 0800 555 111 or complete the online form at

Private sector

beds called on COVID-19 pressures on other im- portant hospital services have led the NHS Kent CCG to work with the independent sector to identify capacity for cancer diagnostics and surgery, clinically urgent surgery and step-down beds for medically stable patients as an alternative to the acute setting.

The CCG says: “The intention is to focus on using particular sites for the priority areas and ensure, where possible, clinically priori- tised elective care continues.” Before the current wave of COVID-19, based on November 2020 information, the CCG was beating the national average for the key national standards.

Specialist care

‘merger plan’ MANY Maidstone residents (26,500 Kent patients a year) have benefited from the skills at Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead. The hospital specialises in life- changing reconstructive surgery, burns care and rehabilitation for patients injured or disfigured through accidents or disease. However, the service could face major changes later this year. Kent and Medway CCG reports a potential merger with Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals due to increasing challenges. But it says it will only merge if services are developed, it continues to serve a wide area and world-class re- search and innovation continue.


How COVID-19 is hitting health care

THE huge impact of COVID-19 on Kent and Medway residents is recorded by Kent Clincal Commissioning Group (CCG).

The group says that by January 18, in Kent there were 2,888 deaths within 28 days of a posi- tive test and 587 in Medway. In addition, there were 2,342 with COVID-19 recorded on the death certificate and 394 in Medway. Positive cases in Kent totalled

97,242 and 22,688 in Medway. This is an under-estimate, due to lower levels of testing early in the pandemic. NHS staff ab- sences (currently about 5%) from infection and self-isolation “have had a significant impact on ser- vices, from hospitals to ambulance services and general practice”.

Hospitals have been under ex- treme pressure from late Novem- ber to January, and the second wave of the epidemic has seen more than twice the number of patients compared with the first. To relieve pressure and to re- tain capacity for new emergen- cies, patients have been transferred between units, some to hospitals in other parts of the country.

Pressures in hospitals led to ambulance hand-overs taking longer, with some waits of many hours in December and January. Hospitals and ambulance crews

ensured patients were closely monitored. About 20 military clinicians are helping at Kent hospitals and non-clinical military staff assist in other hospital areas. GP teams have been asked to prioritise services which support response to the virus, but about 10 GP services have been sus- pended until March 2021. The CCG expects staff work- load to continue for some time. “Staff are exhausted, but con- tinue to dig deep and respond with extraordinary commit- ment,” a spokesman said.

Queues as jabs are rolled out

QUEUES formed outside the Harrietsham Coronavirus vaccination centre on January 14. Cars stretched to the A20 and queues formed around the medical centre and village hall. Users praised the organisers and staff for their “caring and professional” approach on the day. One said:

“The cars were only queuing because the weather was foul.” As this picture shows, some preferred to walk.

Serious shortage of practice GPs

THE shortage of GPs across Maidstone/West Kent and the rest of the county has been high- lighted by the budget-holding NHS Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). The ratio of GPs to patients in

Kent is among the lowest in the UK. Kent requires another 45 full-time equivalent GPs, 28 nurses and 23 direct patient care staff to match the national aver- age.

A further problem is that 25%

of GPs (the highest in England) and 55% of general practice nurses are approaching retire- ment age.

“The primary care workforce needs to move away from focus- ing just on GP numbers and work towards building capacity of teams (nurses, direct primary care workers, health assistants, receptionists),” says the CCG. Wilf Williams, the CCG ac-

countable officer, answering frustrations, said: “There is no reduced access to GPs at this time – the only change is contact with patients being conducted in a different way.” Maidstone Borough Council is

aware of GP surgery problems in the borough and one aim in its emerging new strategic plan is to work with Kent CCG “to im- prove local health care infras- tructure”.

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