Health care services in Kent and Medway during Covid-19
We understand people may be hesitant to contact their GP or healthcare professional at the moment.
We would like to assure people that the NHS is still here for you and able to support all types of health needs, although some services may need to make changes in order to keep patients safe.
Accident and Emergency departments across Kent and Medway are especially busy so patients are asked to consider alternative services for urgent care if their condition is not life-threatening. Find out more here.
See below for details of how services may have been affected as a result of the coronavirus pandemic:
If you have a health condition or symptom that is worrying, please contact your GP. If you don't have a GP, find out how to register with one here. Your GP practice has plans in place to make sure you can be seen safely and effectively, reducing the risk of being exposed to the virus.
At first you may be offered a phone or video consultation with your doctor, but if you do need a face-to-face appointment, you will be able to be seen in a safe environment by your healthcare professional.
We are here for you, to support the health and wellbeing of everyone in our community.
Cancer services remain a priority for the NHS in Kent and Medway and are continuing as far as possible, despite the unprecedented challenges the NHS is currently facing from Covid-19.
Patients should be reassured that cancer surgery is not routinely being postponed and it is safe for you to come into hospitals for urgent tests, procedures and operations when you are given an appointment. Please attend your appointment, unless you are advised by your care provider not to. If you have symptoms of Covid-19 on the day of your appointment, please discuss this with your clinician.
Unfortunately a small number of cancer operations have had to be postponed due to a large increase of patients being admitted into hospital and exceptional demands placed on the staff. We are working extremely hard to keep any future postponements to a minimum.
We understand that this may be a worrying time for patients, but decisions are taken on a case by case basis and patients needing urgent surgery will be prioritised. All patients are being kept under close review by senior doctors and should make contact with their doctor or nurse if their symptoms worsen.
The public can do their bit to help to reduce the spread of transmission of Covid-19 by observing social distancing and the hands, face, space advice, which will save lives and reduce demand on the NHS.
Reinstatement of home birth service: 2 February 2021
Home birth services have now been reinstated across Kent and Medway after a short suspension.
The service was suspended from 30 December 2020 due to pressure on the ambulance service as a result of the high number of cases of Covid-19.
However South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) says its position has gradually improved and it is now able to meet the needs of women who have planned to give birth at home and who may need an ambulance to support them if they need transfer to hospital or a birthing centre.
The four hospital Trusts providing maternity services in Kent and Medway – Medway NHS Foundation Trust, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust, East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust and Dartford and Gravesham Trust – have reinstated their home birth service with effect from Tuesday 2 February 2020.
The position is being kept under review while Covid-19 rates and pressure on acute services remains high.
The Crowborough birthing unit run by Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust remains closed temporarily due to staff transferring to support maternity services at Tunbridge Wells Hospital.
Suspension of home birth services in Kent and Medway 30 December 2020
Pregnant women are advised that home birth services have been suspended in acute hospitals providing maternity services in Kent and Medway.
This is because of current unprecedented pressures on emergency services from Covid-19 which mean that an ambulance response cannot be guaranteed to women giving birth at home or in a stand-alone birthing centre. Women can continue to choose to give birth in midwife-led units within the acute hospitals.
South East Coast Ambulance Service (SecAmb) must give priority to the most seriously ill and injured patients and in light of the current operational pressures, needs to reduce the amount of planned activity that may require emergency ambulance transfer.
Full maternity services are operating within the hospitals and any woman suffering a maternity emergency should continue to call 999 and the service will respond accordingly.
Dr Navin Kumta, Chair of NHS Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group, said: ‘The latest wave of Covid-19 is putting all of our services under pressure and with ambulance services particularly busy, we have made the difficult decision to suspend home birth services and some midwife led units in Kent and Medway.
“We know how disappointing this will be at such an important time for families but it is necessary to ensure we can provide the safest service should any complications arise during a birth, but the position will be kept under regular review and normal services resumed as soon as possible.”
Patients not attending urgent endoscopies because of fears of Covid-19 are at risk of missing the opportunity for diagnosis and treatment of serious conditions, warn doctors.
Initially up to 20% of patients across Kent and Medway did not attend or chose to delay their procedure after the first lockdown was lifted because of worries about catching the virus.
Patients are urged to attend for their urgent endoscopy because their doctor thinks they may have a serious condition, possibly cancer, which needs investigating.
Dr Henry Taylor, Clinical Director for the Kent and Medway Cancer Alliance, said: “If you have been referred for an urgent endoscopy, the risk of missing a diagnosis and any possible treatment far outweighs what is a low risk of catching any infection in hospital. I urge you to attend if you can.”
Hospital teams are taking significant steps to minimise the risk of Covid-19, which include stringent infection controls and the use of PPE, including a requirement for all staff and patients to wear masks. Only patients without any Covid-19 symptoms are allowed into non-Covid areas of hospitals, where endoscopy clinics are based. Social distancing, hand hygiene and frequent surface cleaning are enforced. In endoscopy units, all clinical staff are in PPE, rooms are deep cleaned after each procedure, including filtering rooms’ air between patients.
Patients triaged and assessed as routine may have a longer wait to be seen. They are encouraged to seek advice from their hospital endoscopy team if their symptoms change or worsen.
For further information about your endoscopy, visit: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/endoscopy/