Save Our NHS in Kent: The proposed closure of QEQM’s stroke unit

SONIK will hold a demonstration this month

Save Our NHS in Kent (SONIK)  is formed of residents, patients, research professionals and health professionals who say they are opposed to cuts and closures in the NHS.

They are campaigning against proposals within the Kent and Medway Sustainability and Transformation Plan.

The Health and Social Care STP, created by Kent and Medway health trusts, the NHS, Kent County Council and Medway Council,  is a long-term strategy which includes creating larger emergency departments and co-locating specialist services.

The strategy is part of a draft plan aimed at saving health services in Kent and Medway some £292million.

SONIK is not aligned to any political party. Here members give their view on the proposals for three hyper acute stroke units to serve Kent, Medway and some surrounding areas: 

Our local NHS management body, the Kent and Medway STP (Sustainability and Transformation

Partnership) is planning to close the Stroke unit at QEQM and move our emergency stroke care to Ashford William Harvey Hospital, where they are planning to build a Hyper Acute Stroke Unit (HASU). Many local residents are extremely concerned by this and are supporting the Save Our NHS in Kent campaign.

A ‘postcode lottery’, with Thanet losing out

William Harvey Hospital

The study and assessment of Hyper Acute Stroke Units is still in relative infancy. Studies thus far have focused on urban populations, with good transport links, over a closer area, and have formed no conclusions as to their efficacy in transport-poor or rural areas.

Part of the initial premise for the introduction of specialist centres was the promotion of standardisation and equality of care; to reduce the chances of a “postcode lottery” and ensure parity of treatment across the UK. However, as it stands currently, the aim for London based HASUs is to ensure that every emergency case can reach a stroke unit in under half an hour. Here, with Ashford as the proposed site, our journey time is currently not guaranteed at even under two hours. In seemingly stark contradiction to the supposed aims, at roughly two hours for us in Thanet, and thirty minutes for London and other areas of Kent, what they have proposed is the absolute opposite of equality of care, and the very epitome of a postcode lottery.

Strokes can cause the loss of up to two million brain cells per minute, as David Hargroves, the specialist heading the HASU plan, has stated previous to his current position. The NHS F.A.S.T campaign continually emphasises the importance of speed. But our isolation and lack of funding of our ambulance service (which the CCG have already acknowledged needs to be addressed, without giving details on how) means that we are in a uniquely vulnerable position.

The CCG’s own impact study and consultation acknowledges that Thanet will be adversely affected by this arrangement (we are the 5% who will fall outside expected arrival times) but as yet we have no explanation or even suggestion as to how they intend to mitigate this issue. We don’t think this is good enough.

Our MP, and the matter of engaging all of Thanet in the consultation

SONIK conference in Broadstairs

Our elected representatives are paid to work in our best interests and to represent our concerns. As such, we would hope that they would encourage residents to make their voices heard over the consultation period, as it is our only chance to do so. We cannot, as our Thanet South representative puzzlingly advises us to, “wait” to see what comes from the consultation period, as this ten week consultation period is the only chance we have to listen to their plans, ask questions, and decide what we, as an area, need and want. It is our taxes. It is our service.

The private company that have been hired by our own CCG to run the consultation have said publicly that they are not intending on inviting residents by post as it is considered too costly to notify residents of a process that is due to end in a few short weeks.

The Save Our NHS in Kent protest Photo Chris Constantine

This is our healthcare. It is being funded by our taxes. And we believe that this consultation requires your voices. So we are inviting you to be heard. Come to the meetings. Hear what is planned. Listen to those planning the changes, and those likely to be affected by them, and above all make your voices heard. This is our future. We get to shape it. If you would like to know more and keep up to date regarding upcoming listening meetings and public information events, please feel free to follow us at:

Join our protest and march on Saturday 24 February, noon, outside QEQM Ramsgate Road entrance.

Written by Save Our NHS in Kent campaigners in Thanet.

Read here: Kent and Medway 3 ‘hyper acute’ units plan will mean stroke services removed from Margate’s QEQM


  1. The journey to Ashford is way too long to save the life of a stroke victim. So they’re picking on an area of Kent that has the highest deprivation to close a vital services. Once the stroke services are gone from QEQM will they steadily close the rest of the hospital but by bit.

  2. How rediculous to close stroke unit at the QEQM. Do they want death on their hands,that is what will happen. It’s bad enough we have to go to several hospitals for different illnesses let alone life or death decisions.

  3. Eye surgery already gone . Our Margate hospital is being stripped piece by piece. Stand up and be counted, get to the March, but doubt you see roger gale though, he doesn’t care about local hospitals services

  4. Craig Mackinlay should be joining the campaign to save Margate hospital. Why is he not listening to his constituents?

  5. It’s very important that people go to the Listening Event in Margate, this is one of ONLY TWO chances to hear the case being made by NHS managers, and to demand they come up with a better plan (one that doesn’t leave Thanet outside the safe zone).
    Monday, February 26 at 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM
    Margate Football Club
    Hartsdown Park Hartsdown Rd, CT9 5QZ Margate, Kent

  6. Our MP’s are a disgrace ! They are not interested in Thanet or it’s residents, they only care about their friend Freudman and the continuously failed airport reopening. Must be Roger’s last stand ! Craig telling us to wait and see, and all this is Labour’s fault. Can they both just leave and let someone else do the job, preferably someone who loves Thanet and want’s to keep our services intact.

  7. Staggering that the 2 Thanet MP’s aren’t apoplectic about this proposal? The population of Thanet is proportionately more at risk of stroke than in more affluent areas. I dont believe their lets wait for the experts to tell us the right thing to do. We have heard from GP’s, nurses,patients, loved ones (and sadly a coroner) that this is a retrograde step for health provision in Thanet. They say that comment by concerned residents is ‘political’ If the provision of publicly funded healthcare isn’t political in nature what is? A publicly funded royal yacht? An airport that demands the entire attention of the elected representatives? Mackinlay and Gale attempt to smear the residents who are concerned with the proposed closure of the stroke unit (lets not forget the closure of the ophthalmic services, diminished GP provision) If this isn’t political then they are either ignorant of the nature of politics or they are trying to swerve their responsibilities to the residents of Thanet. They may need to be reminded that those residents are also known as the electorate. Thats the people who make their judgement at the ballot box. They will not be inclined towards those who deny their loved ones a better chance of survival from a stroke if those vital services are moved to Ashford (more than the recommended 1 hour before treatment) I put it to our MP’S that it is they who are being ‘political’ but won’t come out and say that they prefer a privatised healthcare system. Ian Venables. Resident and TDC Councillor (healthcare professional since 1994)

  8. I consider the proposal to cut the QEQM stroke unit and expect anyone in Thanet to make a 1.5 hour journey to the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford as a form of euthanasia by the backdoor.

  9. The change in response times for strokes is in direct contradiction of accepted medical practice on the treatment of strokes.

    This is part of an ongoing program to reduce services at QEQM. There’s clearly a belief that poorer people are less politically engaged and therefor more expendable.

  10. Well if the residents of Thanet stopped voting for the very MP’s that don’t think this is an issue, and voting UKIP to run the council (how embarrassing) then this is what they get! A corrupt MP representing south Thanet, hasn’t said a word about this? Neither has the revered Roger Gale. The elderly are the most likely to have a stroke, the irony is, they voted for it!

  11. I note that we seem to have lost the east Kent area health and now all these flyers relate to Medway! And where was the worse hospital? Medway. Stop this farce now.

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