There will also be more specialist crisis services to support people living with dementia at home and in care homes.
This follows a three-month consultation led by NHS Kent and Medway, which plans and pays for healthcare, and Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust (KMPT), which provides mental health services for older people.
The consultation was to look at how best to organise inpatient care for older people with complex mental health problems and improve support at home for people with dementia in a crisis.
It asked for views on three options - consolidating all these inpatient beds in Thanet; having them at both Thanet and Canterbury; or having them at Thanet, Canterbury and Ashford.
While feedback from the public favoured three sites, clinicians said patients would get a better service if beds were based at two centres.
This would mean more health professionals in each centre, improving the quality of care and the amount of therapeutic input patients receive.
Today (26 September) the NHS Kent and Medway Cluster Board, after listening to the evidence, agreed to support the recommendation for having inpatient beds at two sites.
This change means that KMPT will invest £3.5million by April 2014 in its mental health hospital wards at St Martin's, Canterbury, and the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate. By the time the work is complete, every older patient with mental health needs will have a single room with en suite facilities, as well as access to spacious dining and lounge areas and landscaped, safe, secure outdoor areas.
And, by making these changes, NHS Kent and Medway will be able to reinvest £600,000 in community based support and crisis care, which is so vital for people who wish to retain their independence and live at home for as long as possible.
This will be spent on expanding and improving the Home Treatment Service which provides specialist support for people with dementia and their carers for up to three months. There will also be a new 24-hour, seven days a week dementia crisis service from September.
Having listened to the views of patients during the consultation, KMPT will also introduce a volunteer car scheme. Volunteer drivers will be recruited and carers will be able to book a journey through the scheme to take them from their home to the hospital unit. There will also be extended hours for therapeutic interventions and 24 hour medical cover at both sites.
Evelyn White, Associate Director Integrated Commissioning, NHS Kent and Medway, said: "Improving community support for older people with mental health needs follows the national move away from inpatient care to crisis and home treatment. This means we can support more older people with mental health needs including dementia to live well in their homes for longer.
"There is broad recognition among clinicians that having two sites at Canterbury and Margate will improve ward and clinical quality for those patients who are admitted to hospital for treatment.
"On 7 September, the Kent Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) scrutinised the proposals and gave its support to proceed."
Evelyn added: "The expansion of community services and streamlining of inpatient beds for older people with mental health needs is a proven model that has been working successfully in West Kent for the last two years."
Dr Gunalakshman Kanagassoriam, GP Commissioning Lead for Older People's Mental Health representing east Kent Clinical Commissioning Groups, said: "Developing a specialist service at two sites will improve patient care."
Dr Barbara Beats, Assistant Medical Director for Older Adults at KMPT, said: "By streamlining inpatient services we can expand our community-based services which is the main priority identified by patients, carers, clinicians and professionals.
"KMPT owns St Martin's and the Thanet Mental Health Unit at Margate. This means we can easily refurbish the wards to a high quality standard and investment will be sustainable as we own the buildings."
Dr Beats added: "Concentrating services and staff at Canterbury and Thanet means we can offer extended hours for therapeutic interventions and 24-hour medical cover, which is vital for patient safety."
During the consultation, views were sought from patients, carers, members of the public, GPs, clinicians and professionals and volunteers who worked with dementia cafes, pensioner forums, neighbourhood forums, care homes and day centres.
Three public meetings were held in Canterbury, Deal and Ashford. NHS staff attended community events and worked through a questionnaire with voluntary and community organisations, carers and staff and volunteers from residential care homes. There was also an online survey so people could contribute their views.
The consultation found:
In general, people felt home was the best place for patients with dementia if appropriate local support from professionals and carers was available
There is widespread support for improving and expanding community-based services to help people living with dementia to remain at home for longer
When people were asked what they wanted to prioritise, the majority of comments related to improved support for carers and families
People living with dementia need trained and skilled hospital ward and community-based staff who can offer critical emotional support and practical help in coping with these conditions
There is a desire for effective collaboration and communication between those delivering care to people living with dementia and supporting carers
Hospital wards need to be easy to access for carers and also for staff.
KMPT will now start recruiting additional staff and planning the refurbishment of the wards at Canterbury and Margate.
The public will be kept fully informed of all the changes and any concerned patients or carers can contact KPMT PALs for more information. For contact details, please visit http://www.kmpt.nhs.uk/pals or call 0800 783 9972.
The proposals have been scrutinised by the Strategic Health Authority (SHA), National Clinical Advisory Team (NCAT), Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) Boards, the NHS Kent and Medway Board, Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Board, (KMPT) and the Kent Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC).
26 September 2012