Following the full suspension of dermatology services provided by DMC Healthcare in Medway, Swale, Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley a helpline is being opened to support patients. A smaller service run by DMC in east Kent has also now been suspended.
Dermatology services deal with skin conditions which can include rashes, lesions, lumps on the skin, changes to moles and skin cancer. The east Kent service does not cover the most complex dermatology treatments including cancers.
Paula Wilkins, Chief Nurse at Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “In mid-June we suspended most of DMC’s dermatology service when we became concerned about patient safety.
“Dermatology consultants from a new interim service are seeing the most urgent patients and reviewing the service waiting list. This has given us a clearer picture of the extent of the problems with the service.
“I’m very sorry to say, we now know there have been delays in appointments, including for the diagnosis and treatment of cancers, and that has exposed people to the risk of harm.
“In north Kent, there were 1,855 patients needing urgent treatment and a further 7,500 people were on the service waiting list. We have discovered that around 700 people have been waiting over a year. The east Kent service has 200 patients and following further review was suspended on 17 July.
“We are contacting patients directly and working with local GPs to review patients who may need follow up treatment. But we have some concerns about the quality of DMC’s patient data so we cannot be 100% confident we have contact information for every patient.
“The helpline is to make sure we have picked up everyone who is waiting for treatment; and also for people who have been treated by the DMC service already and have concerns about the care they received.”
The helpline number is 0300 555 0708 and the lines open at 9am on Tuesday, 21 July. The helpline will then be open from 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday.
When calling the helpline people will be asked to provide an overview of their concern and:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- Current address
- GP surgery and if possible NHS number
- Return contact details
Paula added: “If anyone has an immediate need for health advice they should call 111 or in an emergency 999. Our helpline will be taking details of patients who may be waiting for dermatology treatment or have concerns about the care they have received. People will be then be contacted by either the clinical team or a member of my quality team to follow up.”
Action being taken to see and treat patients
Paula said: “We are very sorry this has happened and we are working hard to make sure everyone affected gets the treatment they need without any further delays.
“Every patient will be offered a face to face appointment with a consultant. In many cases patients will have their condition reviewed and, if needed, treatment done on the same day. If the treatment needed cannot be done on the same day people will be booked onto rapid access cancer lists and seen within three weeks.”
Patients are now being seen quickly by a new interim service run by an experienced team of consultant dermatologists.
- Around 1,000 patients with the most urgent needs have already been seen, including new urgent referrals which have come in since the DMC service was suspended.
- All urgent patients are being prioritised.
- The full list of around 10,000 patients will be cleared in the next 12 weeks.
- The interim service includes a highly experienced team of 17 Consultant Dermatologists, two Maxillo-Facial Surgeons, and three Plastic Surgeons with expertise in skin cancer surgery.
- Clinics are running 7 days a week and with further added capacity we will be seeing 1,000 patients a week.
- Clinics are based in Rainham and Fleet with a further clinic at Rochester from 24 July and another in Sittingbourne to follow.
Previous statements about the suspension of DMC services are available at www.kentandmedwayccg.nhs.uk/dmc