Victoria Memorial Hospital, Deal

Entry to Royal Victoria Memorial Hospital, Deal
Royal Victoria Memorial Hospital, Deal – photo: Rosie Burnham; licensed under CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0

Death by a Thousand Cuts?

The Dover and Deal Liberal Democrat party continues to voice its concerns about the future of the Victoria Memorial Hospital, Deal, and will be supporting the vigil on Friday 25 February at Deal Pier.

In November 2021, Dover and Deal LibDems wrote to Paul Bentley, CEO of the Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust (KCHFT), which manages the hospital, voicing concerns that the medical services being offered by the hospital were being run down and moved to other locations. This was followed up by a second email in January 2022. Neither communication has yet received a response.

Concerns raised did not just include the closing of the Phlebotomy Unit, with just two weeks’ notice, which caused such an uproar in Deal at the tailend of 2021, but also the Diabetic Eye Screening Unit. Furthermore, it is now recommended that an appointment be made before attending the Minor Injuries Unit by ringing 111 or 119, although urgent assistance will be provided between 8am and 8pm.

However, many elderly, disabled or disenfranchised people find it almost impossible to navigate such automated telephone systems and subsequent conversations with call handlers, especially when injured or in pain. The question is what service will be next?

A Local Hospital, for Local People

The Victoria Memorial Hospital is not only cherished by residents because it was built by public subscription to honour the dead of Deal following the Great War, but also because it was designed to supply medical care to those who could not afford it in the 1920s when the NHS did not exist. Now, as part of the NHS, it needs to continue to be allowed to fulfil its role in catering for the fast-growing population of Deal, Walmer and Sholden, rather than seeing its services being cut.

Services including Diabetic Eye Screening have been moved to Kent & Canterbury, QEQM and William Harvey hospitals, but none of these are easily accessible via public transport, especially for the elderly or infirm and when they’re journeys which can often involve an entire day. Neither are such journeys environmentally sustainable in a time of climate change.  

A Growing Community Needs Its Own Hospital

The Dover and Deal Liberal Democrats believe the Victoria Memorial Hospital must remain as an NHS community hospital. The services which have been axed must be reinstated and, indeed, its services should be expanded where possible to cater for the present and future needs of the growing number of residents in Deal, Walmer and Sholden.

The Chair of Dover and Deal Liberal Democrats, Penelope James, said:

“We have been voicing concerns for more than a year about the future of the Victoria Memorial Hospital, Deal. The reduction in important services is alarming and unacceptable when large new housing developments of over 1 000 homes are popping up in Deal and the surrounding area.

“We have written to the CEO of the KCHFT asking him to outline the long-term future of the hospital but he has, sadly, ignored our request for transparency, clarity and engagement on this issue and those of service reduction. Unless the community pulls together it seems likely our precious community hospital is going to suffer death by a thousand cuts. The grim truth is once it is gone, it is gone. Then how will residents access the vital NHS services to which they are entitled?

“Dover & Deal Lib Dems are urging as many people as possible to attend the Vigil for the Victoria Memorial Hospital at the entrance to Deal Pier at 6.15pm on Friday 25 February 2022.”

Penelope James, Chair of Dover and Deal Liberal Democrats