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Leaders from NHS and social care organisations in east Kent have developed a ‘case for change’ which sets out why our health and social care system needs to be transformed.

Over the last few months local health and social care leaders from east Kent have been gathering evidence to better understand where our health and care system in east Kent is under real strain and not meeting expected standards. They have published a leaflet called Better health and care in east Kent: time to change describing the reasons why health and social care in east Kent need to be transformed. Some of the key challenges we are facing include:

  • Our local population in east Kent will grow by more than 21,000 people by 2020, increasing demand on our health and care services.
  • The number of people aged over 70 will grow by 20% by 2020. People over the age of 70 are more likely to have a range of health and care needs.
  • Some of our services already don’t have enough capacity to meet demand. If we carry on as we are, by 2020 all services will be over capacity.
  • We don’t have enough permanent specialist doctors and other medical staff to cover rotas in our acute hospitals.
  • In A&E 15% of patients wait more than 4 hours to be admitted or discharged – it should be no more than 5%.
  • We have an increasing number of people who are waiting more than 2 weeks for an urgent cancer referral.
  • There are large numbers of NHS staff due to retire in the next 5 to 10 years and we are struggling to find replacements.
  • There is very likely to be a rise in the number of people living with dementia in east Kent and we need to be sure our mental health services will be able to cope.
  • We are facing a projected financial shortfall of £25 million each year across the whole of the health and social care system.  If we carry on as we are now, without making any changes, the gap between what we have and what we need to spend will be £367 million by 2026.

Dr Sarah Phillips is a GP from Faversham and Chair of the East Kent Strategy Board, a collaboration of local health and social care leaders.  

She says, “Local people are aware that health and social care services in east Kent are under increasing pressure. We believe services can and should be better. Better health and care in east Kent: time to change describes why we need to take action now to make sure health and social care services in east Kent are able to meet the challenges and demands of the 21st century.”

Better health and care in east Kent: time to change begins to set out a future vision for health and social care. One potential approach is to shift some care and services away from big hospitals into local communities instead, making day-to-day services easier to access for local people. These community-based services would be run by teams of doctors, nurses, social workers, and other health and care professionals working together to ensure care is more joined up for people. This should, in turn, lead to fewer unplanned hospital admissions.

Dr Phillips explains, “Big hospitals are expensive to run and often not that convenient for patients. We want to find ways to offer more services close to where people live and to reduce unplanned and emergency admissions to hospital. This will help us to balance our budgets and drive up quality. Community teams of health and social care professionals who know and understand the needs of an individual will be able to act quickly if a person gets ill or has changing needs. Big hospitals will still be there when we need them and what’s more they will be able to work more efficiently and to a higher standard as a result of being under less pressure.”

Over the coming weeks and months there will be opportunities for local people to share their views with the East Kent Strategy Board and contribute to the development of future plans. Details of opportunities to get involved will be made available on the Better health and care in east Kent website as they are finalised.