Deal blood test campaigners and Deal’s MP Natalie Elphicke have welcomed moves to reinstate blood testing services for Deal and the surrounding villages as a ‘major step forward’, following the move two years ago which saw blood testing services closed at Deal Hospital and moved solely to GP surgeries.
Natalie spoke in Parliament on Tuesday about the change of heart by the local health chiefs and presented a petition on behalf of Deal health campaigners, Anne Matthews, Marsha Horne, Tony Grist and Trevor Bond, demanding immediate reinstatement at Deal Hospital.
Deal Blood and Health Action Team campaigner Marsha Horne said:
“For two long years we have been fighting to reinstate the blood service at Deal Hospital. For those same two years our community has been struggling to access timely, local blood tests.
“This finally looks to be an important step in the right direction. I want to see full blood testing services reinstated at Deal Hospital now and an expansion of the use of our hospital. We have demonstrated that the need is there and will only become more crucial with the rapid growth in our community. The NHS states that it ‘puts patients first’ – this is an opportunity for them to prove it.
“I’d like to thank the many local people who have helped in our fight: in person, behind the scenes or via my Facebook campaign. Your stories and concerns have made a real difference. I will continue fighting for you and the healthcare service you deserve.”
Deal Blood and Health Action Team campaigner Anne Matthews said:
“This is an important change of heart by health chiefs. Blood tests are an integral part of diagnostics and it is important that easy access to this service is available to our residents. There have been some up and downs over the last two years as we have pushed for blood testing to come back to Deal Hospital as patients at any of our five practices will have local access to blood tests if their own practice is unable to provide this service.
“I’m pleased that the health chiefs are finally listening to the Deal community on this but they should really get on and open up blood testing in Deal Hospital straight away. That’s what the Petition to Parliament said and I hope that is what we will see happen.”
Deal Blood and Health Action Team campaigner Cllr Tony Grist said:
“Two years of campaigning, somewhat of a roller coaster ride, it will, it won’t, but now things are looking genuinely positive for the reopening of Deal Hospital Phlebotomy Clinic. It’s a wonderful show of how a community coming together can achieve!”
Deal Blood and Health Action Team campaigner Cllr Trevor Bond said:
“It’s been a hard slog over the last two years but, this makes it all worthwhile. Deal Hospital is a great community resource and we need to make the most of it. I’m delighted our community campaign has ensured the voices of Deal and Walmer residents have been heard.”
The Kent and Medway ICB have confirmed new testing service will initially be for 12 months to assess demand. Blood testing will continue to be available at GP surgeries, but this new service will give patients a wider choice and ensure access for groups of patients who have not had local blood testing services available since the Deal Hospital closure was made. Plans for the new service will now go through a formal procurement process which the health chiefs expect to launch later this month, with a new service set to start in 2024.
Speaking after the debate in Parliament, Deal MP, Natalie Elphicke said:
“This is great news for Deal and the villages. The community position has been consistent and clear that the new system hasn’t worked and that blood tests haven’t been locally available when they needed to be for people with cancer and long-term conditions, as well as children. I’ve been clear from the start that blood tests should be available at Deal Hospital as well as at GP practices.Deal Hospital is at the heart of our local healthcare provision and a central part of our local community.
“Huge congratulations to Marsha Horne, Anne Matthews as well as Cllr Trevor Bond and Cllr Tony Grist. We have fought tirelessly together to see blood testing restart, and this is a major step forward.”
The petition presentation can be found here:
and the wording is as follows:
“The petition of the residents of Deal and Walmer,
Declares that the Kent and Medway Integrated Care Board, at long last, finally recognised that older, poorer, clinically dependent people and children in Deal and Walmer have been inadequately provided for following the closure of blood testing services and the hospital in October 2021; notes that residents in Deal and Walmer should have local access to these essential blood testing services; further notes that the Kent and Medway Integrated Care Board are yet to reinstate the blood testing services at Deal Hospital.
The petitioners therefore request the House of Commons to urge the Government to ensure that Kent and Medway Integrated Care Board reopen blood testing services at Deal Hospital immediately.
And the petitioners remain, etc.”
Natalie’s speech to Parliament can be found here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2023-09-19/debates/354DA9B1-C2F6-44A9-A58D-FC294452FFC9/PhlebotomyServices#contribution-C50F98B5-2A37-43BA-892C-07DFA392CAE0
Natalie Elphicke MP said:
“Over the last two years we have had a hard-fought community campaign to reinstate these vital services, with petitions, candlelight vigils and a community consultation that attracted the interest of more than 14,000 residents across Deal, Walmer, Sholden, Kingsdown, Ripple and Great Mongeham.
“The consultation, which I led, working with the Deal blood action taskforce group, found that residents were having to travel four or more hours for a blood test, and at great cost. Some residents paid more than £30 to travel to get a local blood test. I say “local blood test” because the commissioning condition from local health chiefs was that, after the move from Deal hospital to GPs, every resident would have access to local blood tests, but that is not happening.
“Specific groups of people have been particularly affected by the decision to close phlebotomy services at Deal hospital, including residents with diabetes, cancer and long-term health conditions; older residents with mobility or financial challenges; and children, for whom no provision was made following the closure, and who are missing school—and their parents missing work—to get their blood tests done outside the area.
“Blood tests are not just a nice to have; they are a fundamental and basic part of our health system. Not having timely access to local blood services can prevent early diagnosis and intervention, and result in patients remaining on the wrong medicine, harming their health outcomes. Such blood services are important, so I am pleased to report that the Kent and Medway integrated care board has now agreed that the needs of the priority groups identified by the deal blood action team must be addressed.
“The ICB says that it will procure blood services again shortly, with a view to restarting them in 2024. I welcome the long overdue and slow recognition of the immense harm that that decision of nearly two years ago has caused local residents. Given the seriousness of the issues, it is obviously most sensible to reinstate the services at Deal hospital without delay. That is what my petition will set out.”
Responding to Natalie’s comments, on behalf of the Government, Minister Marcus Jones MP, recognised the importance of urgent action on this issue, he said:
“I am glad that she is making progress on the phlebotomy service in Deal and the surrounding villages. Clearly, the integrated care board there is starting to listen, but I understand why she would want quicker progress, as will her constituents.”