The son of a man who collapsed from a stroke while out with his grandson is calling on people across Kent to fight to keep open the specialist unit in Margate hospital.
Jason Tipple, from Cliftonville, has spoken out against plans to create three hyper acute stroke units for Kent and Medway – meaning the removal of services from Margate – after his father had a stroke earlier this year.
Jason said: “Of all the services you could move, stroke isn’t one of them. You’ve got to have that in your local hospital.”
Jason’s father was taken by ambulance to QEQM Hospital in Margate, a journey of 10 minutes, and successfully treated. But, Jason says, if the planned closure of the QEQM service in favour of a hyper acute unit in Ashford goes ahead patients will have to travel for up to an hour. Jason says this could put them at risk of being severely disabled or dying.
He said: “Everyone knows how urgent it is to have speed in treatment for strokes. This is too important to play about with.”
This Saturday (February 24) Jason will join campaigners from across Kent who are marching to save Margate’s stroke unit.
A spokesperson for the Save Our NHS In Kent group, which has organised the march, said: “The official advice is that speed of treatment is vital for stroke victims — so we believe Thanet people will die as a result of having to travel to the nearest new proposed unit in Ashford. And where’s the sense in closing a stroke unit in Thanet, an area of high deprivation and ill health where stroke victims are likely to be most common? It’s madness.”
Jason, who is a social media officer for Thanet’s Labour Party, will be one of the speakers at the demonstration.
He said: “My father has had one stroke and it’s woken me up to how important this is. And I think if people care about their loved ones, about themselves and their health, then I think this is one thing we’ve got to get together to fight for and get a good service in our local hospital.”
The march will start from the main entrance to Margate’s QEQM hospital in Ramsgate Road at noon.
What are the proposals?
General stroke services are currently provided in all the hospitals across Kent and Medway, including the QEQM, but there are currently no specialist hyper acute units. NHS bosses in the region say larger, specialist units in other parts of the country have been shown to improve outcomes for people who have had a stroke.
The hyper acute stroke units will each have a multi-disciplinary team of specialist stroke clinicians, seven days a week. The units will care for all stroke patients across Kent and Medway and from some neighbouring communities in Sussex and South-East London, in the critical first 72 hours after a stroke.
A proposed shortlist of possible options has been created which reveals the nearest hyper unit to Thanet will almost certainly be at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford.
A public consultation on the proposals runs until April 13.
Hyper acute units
Dr David Hargroves, Clinical Lead for Stroke Medicine at East Kent Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, said: “At the moment, there are no hyper acute stroke units in Kent and Medway, and urgent stroke care is provided at six hospitals.
“I very much support the proposal for three hyper acute stroke units because it means we will be able to ensure everyone treated in Kent and Medway gets the best care, no matter what time of day, day of the week or where they are when the stroke happens.
“Currently, although stroke staff do their very best, the way services are organised means that some people do not get the right treatment fast enough, particularly overnight and at weekends. Centralising urgent stroke care in three excellent hyper acute stroke units would change all that.
“We know that patients might currently be able to get to an A&E fairly quickly and the thought of travelling further seems to go against the ‘Act F.A.S.T.’ advice. However, with stroke, what counts is the total time it takes from calling 999 to having a brain scan and starting the right treatment.
“Spending 15 minutes in an ambulance but waiting three hours in A&E is worse than an hour in an ambulance going to a specialist unit that can scan you and start treatment within 30 minutes of arrival. It is also vital for patients’ recovery that over those first three days they are seen by a stroke consultant every day, and regularly assessed by specialist therapists – something we can’t offer at the moment.”
Consultation events in Thanet take place at Minster village hall, in the High Street, on March 7 from 2pm to 4pm.and at Margate football ground, Hartsdown Road, Margate on February 26 from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.