A medical school is great, but a new hospital in Canterbury is what we really want

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham where Alex Claridge had operations

While everyone goes wild for the medical school we’ve been promised, the reality is that a new hospital for Canterbury is the ultimate goal.

As a result of suffering from a complex and persistent condition related to my head, I’ve had to travel outside Kent for specialist treatment.

First it was to the University College Hospital in London, a beautiful 14-storey temple to health opposite Warren Street tube on the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Euston Road.

I first went in there about a decade ago when it had just been built. And I couldn’t believe the difference between its austere white clean-looking wards and treatment rooms and the ones we find in hospitals in east Kent.

The contrast with our rundown Canterbury hospital buildings with their dingy corridors and tired wards is particularly immense.

Alex Claridge post head operation

Ok, ok, I hear you say, this is central London, of course it’s going to be better.

Surely, though, if we have something called a National Health Service, then doesn’t it stand to reason that there should be some semblance of equitability between hospital services in Canterbury, Cardiff and Carrickfergus.

I understand that hospitals in large urban centres are always going to be bigger and will house more specialist services.

But the truth is that most people access hospital services for far more mundane purposes than I have found myself in the system.

They go for minor injuries like broken bones or easily treatable illnesses.

And the fact that once again over the winter, hospital users in east Kent spent hours languishing in waiting rooms for hours is a disgrace.

We’re told there are staff issues, which the medical school will address. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, though, if we got that gleaming new hospital into which the newly trained workforce could go?

As a result of the fact that the medics at UCL were unable to find a solution to my persistent condition, I was sent 200 miles away to Birmingham to see the only man in the UK who performs the procedure I needed on the NHS.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital is next to the university in the Edgbaston area of the city. It is awesome, like something from a sci-fi flick.

Anyone visiting is immediately impressed by the light-filled atrium you find on entry. As a piece of architecture it is quite spectacular. Opened in 2010, its cost was £545 million.

A new hospital for Canterbury certainly won’t cost more than half a billion pounds, but in November a panel of health commissioners mooted a figure of £250 million.

That said, this then comes down to a test of political will – whether those who hold the purse strings decide its something they want to do.

My experience of hospital services from Canterbury to Birmingham tells me that it’s something that they should do and – and start seriously thinking about it now.


  1. With a new hospital there would need to be affordable accommodation available for staff of all grades to attract them to come and work in it. Access to it by ambulances, public transport and cars, would be another major factor to be addressed. The difficulties of access to both the QEQM and WHH, especially by patients who would previously have been treated at the K&C, is currently a major concern to so many..


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