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Published: 19 June 2024

Temporary changes to our inpatient ward at Sevenoaks Hospital

Following a planned evacuation exercise, Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust (KCHFT) is making urgent temporary changes to move inpatient rehabilitation beds from Sevenoaks Hospital to alternative sites.

Sevenoaks entranceA small number of patients will be moved from Sevenoaks to Tonbridge Cottage Hospital to continue their rehabilitation there, on a specialist ward.

Together with Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS), KCHFT carried out the evacuation exercise on Friday, 7 June 2024. The exercise followed a fire survey by KCHFT and a fire safety audit by KFRS, which highlighted issues with fire compartmentation.

After the evacuation exercise, it was clear the speed at which our staff could safely evacuate frail, elderly patients from the first-floor ward of the 100-year-old hospital in the event of a fire, is not fast enough. As a result, KCHFT has made the decision to temporarily move a small number of inpatients to continue their rehabilitation.

Sevenoaks Hospital, in Hospital Road, has an older main building with an inpatient ward and an outpatient building on the opposite side of the road. Only the inpatient ward is affected by the temporary change and other services provided on site will continue.

KCHFT Chief Executive Mairead McCormick said: “The safety of patients and our staff is our first priority.

“As soon as we were aware of the issue, we acted immediately to ensure the safety of our patients and staff in the short-term while we investigated further. We increased staffing levels so we can evacuate patients faster in the case of a fire, reduced the number of beds on the inpatient ward and used the planned evacuation exercise to test the robustness of these measures. 

“Following the evacuation exercise, it was clear the speed and ease at which our staff could safely evacuate frail, elderly patients from the inpatient ward, without significant upgrades to our building that would stop a fire and smoke spreading quickly, is not fast enough.

“We have therefore decided to move our inpatients and supporting staff temporarily to alternative sites while we explore next steps.

“Thanks to the hard work of everyone, a very small number of patients will need to be moved to Tonbridge Cottage Hospital, as the majority of patients are well enough to go home, with support.

“This is not a decision we have taken lightly and we will be working closely with our patients, their families and carers, as well as our colleagues, to make the process as smooth as possible.

“We have an ageing building which will need significant investment to bring up to standard and tackling this is something we are working on, alongside our health and care partners.

“It’s important to stress this is a temporary move while we consider all the options available to us.”

The trust is opening 15 beds at West View Integrated Care centre in Tenterden to support the system in Kent and Medway.