A hospital’s first steps

The £95m Kent Institute of Medicine and Surgery (KIMS), the county’s first and only tertiary care hospital, opened doors to its first patients in the Spring. Leslie Berry reports on its progress

Independently-owned, patient-focused and clinician-led, KIMS offers private healthcare services as well as services to the NHS.

It will provide high-quality complex procedures and acute care in areas such as cardiology, cardiac surgery, neurology, neurosurgery, complex orthopaedics and surgical oncology.

The hospital has one of the largest cardiology departments in the UK and is the first and only institute in Kent equipped to carry out open-heart surgery.

Complex neurosurgery is also available for the first time in the county, as is reconstructive surgery, made possible by the most sophisticated imaging and operating departments in southern England.

In addition, complex orthopaedics, surgical oncology and routine elective surgery are available.

‘To open a large organisation from ground zero is a complex task, and one I believe we have managed well,’ says Dr Anthony Hammond, chairman of the KIMS Medical Board.

Performing well

‘Yes, there have been teething problems, but they are milk teething problems; nothing has really bitten us at all. The theatres are up and running, as are the diagnostics, the day wards, the HDU and ITU units and the spinal surgery team.

‘The building is performing well both technically and as a patient-centred environment. The clinicians who have started work here report very positive experiences of the clinical services we offer in KIMS.

‘The feedback we are getting from patients has all been very positive and we are already hearing about patients asking to be referred to KIMS because of what they have heard about us.’

Some 180 consultants have practising privileges at the hospital and, by the winter, the hospital says more than 100 of them had started working there.

Dr Hammond (pictured left) adds: ‘Our admin­istration processes needed building from the ground up. As always, the devil is in the detail and this takes a little time to get right. But we are aware that this is probably the most public-facing side of our business and we are working hard to implement processes that enhance the patients’ experience.

‘But the big picture is looking very good. We have good people working very hard and who are focused on making patients better.’

Medical director Dr Chris Thom is equally positive, while acknowledging a slightly slower than anticipated ramping up of activity initially.

Complex hospital

‘We have safely and successfully planned the opening of an incredibly complex hospital,’ he says. ‘Activity is picking up nicely and the patient experience, as reported to us, has been very good, as has that of the consultants practising here.’

He says that, at the outset, patients were coming to KIMS that would otherwise have gone to other local providers, such as the private BMI and Spire hospitals in Maidstone and Chatham.

‘The next stage is to start bringing in work that would otherwise have gone to a range of London hospitals,’ Dr Thom adds. ‘We have already begun that process with spinal surgery, brought here by a team from King’s, and cardiac interventional cases in our new robotic catheter labs.’

Phase 1 of KIMS has generated approximately 180 whole/full-time-equivalent jobs. They inc­lude clinical professionals of all disciplines, hospitality personnel, porters, security and reception, building and grounds maintenance, IT technicians, administration, financial and procurement

KIMS has plans to develop two further phases that may include bespoke facilities for rehabilitation and oncology services.

Frustrated plans

A new planning application will be needed, as the original approval would have lapsed for these two plots. The plan is to introduce future phases of development over a ten-year period.

Chief executive Jayne Cassidy explains that plans to treat NHS patients at KIMS were being frustrated by NHS England’s moratorium on recognising new providers and the local clinical commissioning group’s inability to contract new Any Qualified Providers outside of the commissioning year

‘We have been, and continue to be, pressing NHS England and local commissioners to talk to us about what we can offer,’ she says.

‘Meantime, we are carrying out spot theatre work for local NHS trust hospitals to help them manage waiting list breaches, and we are in the planning stage with other trusts to assist with winter pressures and support the local critical care network.

‘Since the KIMS concept was born, the aim has been to provide a high-class tertiary hospital serving private and NHS patients across Kent, East Sussex and South East London and that continues to be our aim.

‘There is still work to do, but we have made an excellent start and the clinical and non-clinical teams continue to build on that.’