Plans to improve local healthcare will see the creation of a new super-clinic at Tunbridge Wells Hospital along with the opening of GP surgeries until 8pm and at weekends.
The new Urgent Treatment Centres [UTCs] at the hospital in Pembury and the Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust’s sister hospital at Maidstone will be ‘fully open’ in April 2019.
The news comes as West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group [CCG] announced the closure of out-of-hours practices at Tonbridge Cottage Hospital and Sevenoaks Community Hospital at the end of this month.
The extended hours at doctors surgeries, which will see them open until 8pm Monday to Friday with some weekend appointments, will come into effect in October.
The UTCs are designed to relieve pressure on Accident & Emergency Departments, offering an alternative for patients who are not sure what level of care they require.
It is also envisaged that they will offer more scope for follow-on treatment, while also deploying staff more efficiently.
The centres will enable people to undergo additional testing such as X-rays and access the expertise of consultants more quickly if required.
In addition, mental health and social care workers and therapists will be on hand to offer advice and support.
The centres will also offer improved facilities for the assessment and treatment of children and frail patients.
The UTCs will work closely with conventional GP practices and staff will have access to medical records if patients give their consent.
Dr Mark Whistler, urgent care Clinical Lead for West Kent CCG, said: ‘For a long time we have known that significant
numbers of people come to the emergency departments when they don’t have a strict medical need to do so, because they don’t know what else to do or want the reassurance of being seen at a hospital.
‘Not only will these developments help people to receive the right care, first time, but they will also make better use of the staff available and make sure people get a consistent 24-hour GP-led service from both Tunbridge Wells and Maidstone hospitals and more integrated care.
He added: ‘Once the Urgent Treatment Centres are open, patients who come to the hospital but need to see a nurse or GP, will do so.
‘Then, if it turns out their case is more serious than it might appear, they can be swiftly moved into the emergency department, where the consultant-led teams will take care of them.’