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
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
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.
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.