Patients in north Kent urged to use alternatives to A&E as pressure on NHS continues

5 January 2018


Non-urgent operations and procedures could be rearranged in north Kent to help ease the current pressure on the NHS.

The NHS across north Kent, like other areas of the country, is extremely busy and urgent care services including A&Es at Darent Valley Hospital and Medway Maritime Hospital are experiencing significant pressure.

GP surgeries and other urgent care services such as NHS 111 and the ambulance service are also under greater strain than usual and having to deal with more patients.

Respiratory illness, flu complications and a rise in the severity of illness and number of patients using urgent care services means the NHS is having to make some difficult decisions nationally and locally, including cancelling some non-urgent operations and appointments.

NHS Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley, and Swale clinical commissioning groups, which plan and buy NHS services in north Kent, are working with the hospitals to free up space for those people who need to be admitted, and with GPs to make more appointments available.

A spokesperson for the CCGs said: “All NHS services across the south east have seen significant increases in demand over the past week, but that’s not unusual for this time of year.  Winter brings with it a doubling in the number of respiratory illnesses which results in more emergency admissions and puts pressure on the NHS.

“NHS staff have been working exceptionally hard to make sure people get seen and treated and we are incredibly grateful for the dedication shown.

“A decision has been taken nationally to postpone non-urgent operations and procedures in January and we are working with hospitals who are communicating this directly to patients who will be affected.

“We’d like to stress that this national decision has not been taken lightly and we apologise for the inconvenience this causes to patients locally.”

The spokesperson stressed that patients whose operations or procedures are likely to be cancelled will be contacted directly by the hospital or clinic. Day case procedures and routine follow-up and outpatient appointments could also be rearranged, but urgent operations and procedures, such as for people with cancer or life threatening conditions, will still go ahead.

The CCGs are taking a number of other steps to help ease the pressure on A&Es. This includes co-ordinating the actions to free up bed space by discharging people if they are well enough to be sent home and working with community health and social care colleagues to put the appropriate home care package in place.

The CCG spokesperson said: “As a result of the added pressure on the NHS at the moment, we’re asking people to make sure they use NHS services appropriately. This includes not calling 999 or turning up at A&E unless their situation is an emergency.  Pharmacists, GPs, and minor injury units can all offer advice and treatment for minor injuries and ailments and we’d urge anyone who is unsure where to go to contact NHS 111.”

Many people are unwell at the moment with colds, chest infections, flu and winter vomiting. Sometimes these illnesses can become life threatening, but in most cases they are treatable at home with over the counter remedies that can be purchased from pharmacies.

The spokesperson said: “We urge everyone to consider self-care where appropriate and ensure they are stocked up on over the counter remedies such as painkillers and medicines for coughs, colds and flu, and vomiting and diarrhoea.

“If people are concerned about their health and need medical advice, we’re asking them to choose wisely. Walk in Centres and Minor Injury Units are open every day including weekends. Pharmacies are also open and pharmacists are trained to give medical advice and over the counter remedies for minor ailments.

“If you’re really unwell, you should seek help. But think about where to go for that help.”

To find out what services are open in your area, go to or use the Health Help Now website and app which will locate your nearest open pharmacy or other NHS service.

Health Help Now can be found at

Walk in Centres and Minor Injury Units in Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley, Medway and Swale

GP-led walk-in centres

Walk-in centres have health professionals including GPs and nurses who will see you without an appointment if you have an urgent concern.

Open from 8am-8pm, 365 days of the year and you don’t need an appointment:

  • Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley Walk in Centre, White Horse Surgery, Vale Road, Northfleet, Kent DA11 8BZ. Phone: 0300 0300 000.
  • Medway GP Walk-in Centre, Ground floor, Balmoral Gardens Healthy Living Centre, Balmoral Gardens, Gillingham, ME7 4PN, Phone: 01634 331177.
  • Sheppey NHS GP Walk-in Centre, Sheppey Community Hospital, Plover Road, Minster-On-Sea, Sheerness, ME12 3LT Phone: 01795 879199.

Minor Injuries Units 

Trained nurses at minor injuries units (MIUs) can assess and treat cuts, sprains, minor burns, minor dislocations of the fingers and toes, minor eye injuries and remove foreign bodies from, for example, ears and  noses. MIUs cannot treat babies under one year old.  MIUs are open every day of the year.

  • Gravesham Community Hospital: Bath Street, Gravesend, DA11 0DG. Phone: 01474 360816. Open 8am to 8pm, every day of the year.
  • Sittingbourne Memorial Hospital: Bell Road, Sittingbourne, ME10 4DT. Phone: 01795 418300. Open 9am to 9pm, every day of the year
  • Sheppey Community Hospital: Plover Road, Minster, ME12 3LT. Phone: 01795 879100. Open 9am to 9pm, every day of the year.


For emergency dental care, contact your own dentist first. At evenings, weekends and bank holidays (8.30am to 1.25pm) you can call DentaLine on 01634 890300.

Mental health support

Free confidential emotional advice and guidance is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from the Mental Health Matters helpline on 0800 107 0160. The Samaritans are also there to listen at any time of day or night and can be reached by dialling 116 123.

NHS 111

If you need urgent health help and advice but are unsure where to go for help, NHS 111 is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Trained health professionals can give advice over the phone, and call handlers can direct you to the right place for the right care.