There’s a lot of misinformation out there
Although it’s called a plan, at this stage it’s more a strategy, setting out what the future might look like in general terms. It is nowhere near making any decisions. When it is, there will be a full public consultation. The concerns about A&Es closing and beds being cut are based on opinion, not facts or decisions, Kent & Canterbury Hospital being an example.
The reasons for changes are out there East Kent produced a case for change last year. There will be a similar document for the whole of Kent & Medway very soon.
It’s about your GP Practice, not hospitals
People don’t want to go to hospital if they don’t have to, and once they’ve been treated in one it actually becomes a bad place to stay. Audits done show that at any one time in East Kent 300 people could be discharged if the right services were available at home.
At Healthwatch Kent we hear from people that one of their biggest issues is getting to see their GP. Imagine you could see the right person much more quickly at your surgery when you’re not well. This may not need to be your GP, it could be a nurse, a therapist, social worker, mental health worker or someone to give you advice. At the moment you have to go to lots of different places to see them. The STP wants to group them together in your practice, or at least in a practice nearby.
Lots of people are OK with the goals of the STP
Four hundred people came to public listening events in East Kent in March. Generally they thought investing in community services and keeping people out of hospital was a good idea, providing they can still get the right help in an emergency.
Lots of people are worried about how we’ll get there
At the listening events people expressed concern about how to shift the focus to community services when more people are going to A&E than ever before. We are starting to see protests and meetings opposing the STP, worried that they will lose their local services.
It is vital that people have the opportunity to make their views and concerns known and heard. If done well, the transformation by the STP could be very positive for all of us. If not done well, it could be disastrous. Healthwatch Kent’s role is to ensure people are involved and heard. It is important that people can object and protest, but we want people to understand the facts before they decide to do so. We also want to ensure people who are not engaged in those activities are heard as well.
What we’re doing
Wherever possible, we are involved in discussions with the organisations involved, ensuring they have plans to talk to the public. Those meetings are happening in districts, across whole areas like East Kent, and across Kent & Medway.
We are helping to set up a group of patients, lay people and public to advise how to communicate and engage with the public across Kent & Medway. It is called the Patient & Public Advisory Group and Healthwatch Kent is chairing it initially, but it is a key part of the programme management. You can apply to be part of it by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org There has been a similar group in East Kent since August 2016.
We know lots more, and we’re keen to discuss it with you. There’ll be more updates on the STP (I’ll talk about money next) and you can contact me with any queries on email@example.com
CEO Healthwatch Kent