Public meeting backs new hospital for Dover

Contributed by editor on Apr 23, 2008 - 11:53 PM

The Prosser Perspective.... a weekly column from Dover and Deal MP Gwyn Prosser

24 April 2008

Last Friday’s public meeting in the Town Hall organised by my old pal, Reg Hansell was a great success and the good turn-out was no surprise because the subject matter was health care, new hospitals and Buckland.

I’ve had dozens of meetings, organised lots of marches and collected thousands of petitioner’s names in the fight to retain services at Buckland and over the years we have faced the prospect of losing our hospital on more than one occasion.

Some would say the fight is lost, that the Health Trusts have drained the life blood from Buckland and closure is imminent but this is not my view and it clearly wasn’t the view of all those people who attended the Town Hall meeting.

In the nineties, the East Kent Hospital Trust started shifting acute services away from Dover and when I was elected in 1997 I had a series of meetings with the Chief Executive and entered into discussions with the then Secretary of State for Health, Frank Dobson.

I shared the concerns of my constituents that Buckland was under threat of closure again but the Trust assured me this was not the case and they described a new role for the hospital. They said that they wanted Dover people to have all of their acute interventions provided at William Harvey because that’s where all the top consultants and specialist equipment was concentrated and in their clinical view that was the way to improve outcomes and survival rates.

As part of this model, they said that once their main operations were done patients would be returned to Buckland for continuing care and recovery so they could be closer to home making visiting easier. Dover disserved better than this but such decisions are taken by the Trust and although I secured their agreement that they would retain a minimum of 100 beds and continue providing Day Surgery it was not possible to resist the other changes.

It’s a disgrace that the Trust, under new leadership later broke both these promises and in my view betrayed the people of Dover when they exported nearly all the Day Surgery work to Canterbury and started shutting wards.

Last year they conducted a sham consultation, talked to a few hundred people and concluded we wanted to scrap Buckland in favour of a glorified health centre in the town centre. We say that the real voice of Dover was expressed by the 15,000 local people who signed our Buckland petition.

Since then there’s been a thundering silence but I’ve seen the minutes of a recent Steering Group Meeting which puts the prospects of continuing health care provision at Buckland back on the agenda and describes a favoured options to invest up to £11 million on the site.

So with the extra impetus provided by the Reg initiative we can campaign for investment at Buckland in the short term and the provision of a new hospital in the longer term – because the worst of all worlds would be to lose Buckland Hospital before anything’s put in its place.