NHS bosses admit staffing problems caused by a blood test service at Victoria Hospital posed a risk to patients before it was abruptly axed last year.
On-site phlebotomy clinics at Agreement they were stopped in November, and patients were told they would instead have to undergo checks at their GP surgeries.
Now NHS representatives have revealed that the hospital service, which campaigners are fighting to bring back, suffered from staff shortages before it was withdrawn.
Speaking at a meeting of the Dover District Council Scrutiny and Review Committee, NHS Kent & Medway chief of staff Natalie Davies said: “The phlebotomy service at Deal was being run on a part-time basis with a very large number of staff. , very small, and as such the service was very flimsy.
“If there wasn’t a phlebotomist, they would take the staff out of the ward to go and take the blood samples in the clinic, which of course was not good for the ward staff.
“I was driving, and we hadn’t been made aware of any specific security issues that had materialized, but the risk was there because it was a very, very fragile service, and when Kent Community [NHS Foundation Trust] They expressed that they needed to close, those were the reasons they were giving.”
Since the phlebotomy service at London Road hospital was abolished, residents of Deal, Walmer and the villages have had to have their blood tested at their GP’s offices.
Speaking generally, and not on behalf of the Kent Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Ms Davies told councillors: “What we really clearly recognize is that this decision was not communicated well enough,” she said.
“Undoubtedly, the population in the local area was not informed about the decision early enough; they were not clearly consulted on what the additional provision should be.”
However, Walmer councilor Chris Vinson (Cons) was unimpressed, saying it “felt like the lockdown happened in the community, with little warning”.
“Better communicating a decision that is widely unpopular would not necessarily have affected the unpopularity of the decision,” he added.
Local health campaigners say the provision of blood tests by GPs alone is hurting the quality of care patients receive.
Anne Matthews, who has campaigned for the reinstatement of the blood test service since its closure, told district council and NHS representatives that people have been “waiting up to seven weeks for blood tests”.
He added that this has been “causing delays in the diagnosis of a health problem and therefore delaying treatment.”
Fellow campaigner Marsha Horne told the committee that “more than 200 people a week were seen in the blood unit at Deal hospital.”
He added that these were often people with cancer and other chronic conditions, or difficult veins.
Asked why the decision was made to end the phlebotomy service, a spokesperson for NHS Kent and Medway did not answer the question directly.
They said: “Everyone who lives in Deal has access to blood tests in the town, at their local GP.
“Phlebotomy services are part of the routine care that all general practices are contracted to provide.
“Since the transition from Deal hospital to general practice, the number of blood tests has increased.
“There are no plans to remove other services from the Victoria Hospital.
“We are aware of the feedback on the changes and have commissioned an independent review of how the service now works. This should be reported in the new year.”