Big changes planned for healthcare in Gravesend and Dartford
PUBLISHED: 17:00 28 June 2019
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A blueprint designed to "transform" the county's health and social care system by 2024 has been unveiled.
A five-year programme has been outlined for an integrated Kent and Medway health system, which is hoped to improve social care for hundreds of thousands of patients across the county's 13 districts.
The new initiative is expected to help tackle major issues facing local NHS bodies, including lack of funding, reduction in staff recruitment and the under utilisation of technology.
The Kent and Medway Sustainability and Transformation Partnership, tasked with transforming health and social care in the county, has spearheaded the initative, which is being supported by Kent County Council and Medway Council.
The vision for the five-year plan was outlined by five local health experts during a public meeting at County Hall in Maidstone.
The leader of Kent County Council, Cllr Paul Carter, described the proposal as "ambitious".
He said: "If we can invest in local care and get it right, we can avoid hospitalisation for many of our patients."
As part of the proposed five-year programme, a single system commissioner will be created. This will be delivered through the establishment of a single Kent and Medway clinical commissioning group (CCG).
The CCG will be tasked with overseeing health and social care for Kent's 1.8 million inhabitants.
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Four integrated care partnerships are also expected to be established by 2022, operating across populations of around 250,000 to 700,000. These will be divided into four separate locations in the county and include East Kent; Medway and Swale; West Kent; and Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley.
The publication of this "integration" proposal comes just five months since the NHS Long Term Plan was unveiled, which revealed NHS budgets had received a financial boost of 3.4% from the government last autumn, which amounts to £20bn over five years.
It is not known how much of the revised NHS budget will be allocated to Kent alone, but its Long Term Plan states additional money will be fed into primary medical and community health services, and into a host of clinical priorities, especially mental health.
Kent and Medway Sustainability and Transformation Partnership's deputy chief executive Michael Ridgewell, who laid out the five-year plan's strategic policy overview during the meeting, said one of the plan's key objectives was to attract high quality doctors and nurses to work for Kent's local health bodies.
He said: "The one thing we need is a good workforce. That will help improve the quality of care we provide."
Elected members of Kent County Council's Health Reform and Public Health Cabinet commitee largely voiced their suppor for the health programme, although some concerns were raised about the longevity of the project.
Margate Cllr Barry Lewis, leader of the Kent Labour Group, said: "I do not think the five-year plan is radical enough.
"On the technology front, why not use Skype to get people in touch with doctors if you are unable to do so in person.
"I'm not sure this five-year plan takes us on a journey. It seems far too short."
Tunbridge Wells Cllr Sarah Hamilton told the committee she was thrilled about the idea.
She said: "It's exciting for the future and sends out a really positive message to people in this county."