Maidstone Hospital is taking the step to ensure patients can still be treated in the event of Brexit causing severe traffic congestion in Kent. The hospital is close to the M20, one of the key routes to the Channel ports, which is likely to become congested in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The trust’s other hospital, near Tunbridge Wells, is not expected to be affected as badly.
The trust has already booked some hotel rooms nearby “as a contingency”. These could be used for cancer patients who need daily treatment and could find it hard to access Maidstone Hospital’s cancer centre. A spokesperson said the “small number of hotel rooms [w]as a precautionary measure, to ensure we can continue to treat those patients requiring daily treatment”.
In a report to the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust board, chief operating officer Sean Briggs and head of emergency planning and response John Weeks said the plans were for a “worst case” scenario, and pointed out the trust has experience of coping with travel disruption. Operation Stack – where lorries are parked on the partially-closed M20 because Channel crossings are disrupted – led to severe disruption in 2015 and affected access to the Maidstone site for both patients and staff, it added. The document also said vital supplies and even patients could be airlifted into the hospital by helicopter.
The recently-constructed helipad at Maidstone General Hospital is expected to be operational by 31 October when the UK is scheduled to leave the EU. It could be used to move both patients and essential supplies if the hospital is badly affected by traffic disruption, according to the board papers.
The report revealed other measures being considered, including: standing down some “non-critical services” and deploying staff to support non-elective work; encouraging staff to use public transport to get to work and then picking them up from railway stations; using motorcycle couriers for urgent blood supplies; and changing shifts and working hours or days for some staff.
It concluded: “Even with the most effective planning and preparation, if the worst case assumptions become reality, then there will be disruption to services, although as an organisation our critical services are believed to be resilient.”
A trust spokesperson said: “To ensure our patients can continue to access services in a range of circumstances, such as when travel disruption is anticipated or severe weather is forecast, we have well-tested plans in place as part of our standard business continuity planning. We are working in partnership with other agencies across Kent and the wider National Health Service (NHS) on our EU exit resilience planning and are confident that we are as prepared as we can be.”
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