PROPOSALS for a new out-of-hours GP service is being proposed, supplying an Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC) at Tunbridge Wells Hospital.
The development is being carried out because health chiefs believe the central hub would offer better facilities than those available from current providers.
However, if the plans are approved it will result in the closure of sites at Tonbridge Cottage Hospital by September 30, followed by Sevenoaks and Cranbrook next April.
This new approach is aimed at people who attend A&E when it is urgent but not an emergency. It will allow them to be seen by GPs or nurses based at the centres, alongside social care experts and therapists and, if needs be, ‘swiftly moved’ to A&E.
Emergencies can then be dealt with more quickly by consultants and their teams.
Plans are also being formulated to enable access to GP care throughout West Kent from 8am-8pm Monday to Friday by March 2019, with weekend slots at times to be decided.
It is understood that the initiative will not affect those who depend on care at home, and doctors will continue to make their visits.
Dr Mark Whistler, Urgent Care Lead for NHS West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “For a long time we have known that significant numbers of people come to A&E when they don’t have a strict medical need to do so.
“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 A&E, where the consultant-led teams will take care of them.
“Meanwhile, A&E teams will be able to concentrate on those patients who need the specialist care only they can provide.”