Ground broken for new hospital student block despite objections

Nusrat Ghani
DIGGING IN: MTW CEO Miles Scott (left) with health officials and Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark (right)

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council gave the green light to the medical student accommodation on June 23.

The plans will see around 150 much-needed junior doctors trained at the site each year, but the proposal came under opposition from residents and the parish council in Pembury who tried to block the development.

They argued that the new teaching block would cause local parking issues and a ‘loss of trees’.

The Deputy Parish Clerk wrote in a formal objection: “We are very supportive of the concept of a training facility at the Tunbridge Wells Hospital, but we object to this application on the grounds that the lack of parking on an application of this scale is unacceptable.

“There is also concern about the significant loss of trees. There are also many unanswered queries.”

Pembury borough councillor David Hayward (Alliance) also voiced his concerns, telling newspapers: “It is naive to imagine that all of the students will be arriving by means other than private car.”

“The residents of Pembury tell me they are concerned that the streets of Pembury closest to the hospital will be used even more for surrogate parking, in particular from the garage towards the green.”

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust (MTW), which runs the hospital and is investing in the student block, currently has a record backlog of 35,000 people waiting for elective and non-emergency surgeries and procedures, and is trying to increase the number of trainee doctors at medical school by 25 per cent.

The Planning Committee and Tunbridge Wells Council dismissed the concerns of residents in June, and on Thursday August 5 a ground-breaking ceremony was held at the hospital site.

MTW’s Chair, David Highton, and Chief Executive, Miles Scott, were joined by Sir David Behan, Chair of Health Education England (HEE); Greg Clark, MP for Tunbridge Wells; Professor Chris Holland, Dean of Kent and Medway Medical School (KMMS); and Councillor Tom Dawlings, Leader of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.

The new state-of-the-art six-storey building will provide teaching facilities and high-quality accommodation for 145 medical students and trainee doctors a year.

The first intake of approximately 40 Kent and Medway Medical School students will arrive in September 2022.

The Trust says living on site also removes the need for students at the new block to travel by car to and from the hospital for their course.

MTW Chair David Highton said: “It’s a credit to all those involved that just six weeks after getting the go-ahead for the student accommodation and academic teaching building, construction work has started.

“We are delighted to be working in partnership with Kent and Medway Medical School, whose students will benefit from these new facilities. This project is very much a part of our organisation’s shared vision to train and retain doctors in the county.

“The development is also part of a national commitment to increase the number of medical school places in the UK by at least 25 per cent – around 1,500 – to expand the number of ‘home-grown’ doctors, especially in areas like Kent where we have a significant shortage.”

Trust Chief Executive Miles Scott added: “By giving medical students an excellent experience while they are training, we hope to attract and retain a future generation of exceptional doctors who want to work locally to deliver outstanding care for our patients at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust.

“This project would not have been possible without the dedication and support of our MTW team and partner organisations. On behalf of the Trust I would like to thank Health Education England for their support, Kent and Medway Medical School, the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Deanery and Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.”

Sir David Behan, Chair of Health Education England, said: “In HEE we have the great privilege of working in partnership with NHS trusts and universities to develop the clinicians of the future; a future which, due to the advances of science and technology, will be very different to the past.

“I am delighted that the construction of the medical student accommodation and academic teaching building will play an important role enabling our future doctors to live and work in the community here in Tunbridge Wells and Maidstone, because we know the majority of doctors work in the communities where they are trained and educated.

“This is such an important and exciting development. Congratulations to all who have made it possible.”

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