Unsurprisingly over the past 10 months or so, the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted on the NHS’ East Kent Transformation Programme.
The doctors, nurses and other health professionals from both primary and secondary care working on the programme have understandably been focussed on patient care, and the NHS Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group programme team has been redeployed to support the Kent and Medway-wide response to the pandemic.
Pre-consultation business case
However, we have continued to develop the ‘pre-consultation business case’ or PCBC which sets out the proposals to improve hospital services for east Kent.
The PCBC contains all the evidence and data to support the options to be put forward for public consultation.
Part of the process of getting to public consultation is called assurance. This is where our regulators, NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSEI), check whether the options for consultation meet key tests designed to measure how the options will deliver improvements for patients, and whether they will be a good use of public money.
Along with assuring the PCBC, we also need to secure Treasury funding for the proposals before we can proceed to consultation.
The assurance process to date has identified that the PCBC is very well developed, and that it sets out a clear case for change, well defined options for consultation and robust plans for delivering the consultation.
NHSEI also recognise that we have developed clear and realistic plans for how we will improve the quality of care and deliver better outcomes for patients, by consolidating specialist services, implementing innovative ways of working, joining up services across the NHS and making the most of digital technology.
They agree there is a compelling need to make changes to services because of the challenges currently facing our hospital teams, such as services being split across multiple sites which impacts on staffing numbers and quality of care, and the condition of our hospital buildings.
As is common during the assurance process, NHSEI identified some areas of the pre-consultation business case that would benefit from further strengthening and/or detail.
These areas include making sure we have clearly explained in detail our plans for three vibrant and thriving hospitals in east Kent that will provide a wide range of day-to-day care and services for local people and ensuring we have explored every opportunity to get the best possible value for public money.
We are continuing to work closely with NHSEI colleagues to finalise the PCBC as quickly as possible.
We are also working with NHSEI and the Department for Health and Social Care to secure the capital funding needed – around £400 million.
Once these two critical requirements – the PCBC and the capital funding – are finalised we will look carefully at the timing for public consultation, in discussion with our colleagues from East Kent Hospitals, members of the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee and groups representing patients and the public.
As things currently stand, it would not seem wise or appropriate to launch a public consultation when the Covid-19 pandemic and vaccination roll-out is quite rightly the key priority for both the clinical leaders and the CCG team working on the East Kent Transformation Programme, and when our local communities are unlikely to be able to engage in consultation in a meaningful way.
We will of course continue to update our staff, stakeholders and local communities on the East Kent Transformation Programme as and when we have information to share.