Patients will be at risk without Urgent Care Hub in Kettering, says national campaign

The temporary building at Kettering General Hospital's stretched A&E department
The temporary building at Kettering General Hospital's stretched A&E department

A national campaign has used Kettering General Hospital’s bid for an Urgent Care Hub, rated as the highest clinical priority across the country, as a key example of why the NHS needs greater funding.

NHS Providers, a national organisation that represents hospital trusts, launched its campaign on Friday, August 30, to urge the Government to address NHS funding and is using KGH’s bid for an Urgent Care Hub as an example because of worries that patients will be at risk without it.

Jo Fawcus, KGH’s chief operating officer, is in charge of running the hospital’s services and said: “Our A&E facilities have been stretched as far as they can be. Store cupboards and offices have been converted into clinical bays and there is no space left in our existing footprint.”

KGH’s A&E department was opened in 1993 and was designed to accommodate 40,000 patients per year but Kettering’s above-average population growth means the hospital now receives 90,000 patients every year.

“That is why this trust – fully supported by our local health and social care partners – has been seeking funding for a £50m Urgent Care Hub for the KGH site.”

Despite being rated the top clinical priority in the country by health and social care partners, the Urgent Care Hub at Kettering did not get any funding in recent capital funding announcements.

The trust that runs KGH has an annual capital fund of £3.5m but this is used in maintaining essential equipment and repairs.

There will be no further announcements on funding until 2020 and there is no agreed way for trusts to raise funds in other ways, like through private finance.

Without these upgrades, KGH’s A&E is predicted to be coping with an additional 10,000 patients over the next five years, taking the total to 100,000 patients per year by 2024, well above capacity.

Dr Kish Patel, KGH’s chief of division for medicine, said: “The stresses on our A&E department are very real and we are very concerned that if demand continues to rise our patients could be at risk.

“We just cannot continue to see more and more people in our current facilities without impacting on safety. The Urgent Care Hub plan is a very logical way of providing the urgent care services that the people of North Northamptonshire deserve.”

KGH’s current A&E is now seen as badly designed for current use because “the layout is unsuitable for dealing with surges in demand and there is no clear line of sight for monitoring deteriorating patients”.

“The minors area faces the main waiting area and people waiting can see patients being treated when doors are open."

A new building is needed because the current site no longer complies with health building standards and "even with significant capital investment, these capacity and quality issues cannot be adequately addressed within the confines of the existing building".

An example of the stretched site is the 13-bay Majors Department, which is in a temporary portable building at the back of A&E and is connected by a steep ramp which staff have to push patients up. This was meant to be a two-year temporary solution but has now been in place for three years.

The hospital's children's facilities are also inadequate and not compliant with the recommendations of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health because children waiting for treatment must sit in a corridor which runs alongside all adult and mental health patients.

This area of waiting chairs for children is also unsupervised by any staff, which compromises safeguarding responsibilities.

NHS Providers, the group which represents hospital trusts and campaigning for more NHS investment, said: "The emergency department at Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is now seeing three times as many patients per day as it was built to treat safely.

"The care of children, adults and elderly people is currently being compromised by the cramped and crowded facilities.

"The trust needs up to £50m to build an up-to-date urgent care hub. However, it has no access to capital from either public or private funding sources."

NHS Providers said it welcomed the Prime Minister's pledge to allow the NHS to spend an additional £1.8bn but that NHS funding still faces a huge challenge, with a £6bn backlog maintenance bill.

The campaign asks the Government to set a multi-year NHS capital funding settlement, for projects like Kettering's Urgent Care Hub, and a commitment to bring the NHS budget in line with comparable countries.

It also asks the Government to create a way of prioritising the access and spending of the NHS capital based on need, which would enable KGH to take priority in the next round of funding announcements.