Walk-out upheaval at Margate stroke service consultation event

Campaigners at the consultation Photo Aayan Bulale

A consultation on changes to stroke services held in Margate on Monday (February 26) broke down when more than half the audience left before the end.

A panel of NHS officials, including Dr Tony Martin, Head of Thanet’s Clinical Commissioning Group, and Dr David Hargroves of East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, presented proposals which will mean the closure of the stroke unit in Margate hospital in favour of a hyper acute unit at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford.


Kent and Medway NHS Trusts want the create three hyper units, saying each will 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.

The NHS says as staff in the new hyper acute stroke units see and treat more stroke patients, they will become even more expert in their care.

But Save Our NHS In Kent (SONIK) group and other health campaigners say Thanet lives will be put at risk by having to make the journey to Ashford.

Photo Lillian Constantine

Two protests have so far taken place outside QEQM Hospital in Margate and more are planned in a bid to overturn the proposals and retain stroke services in Thanet.

A SONIK spokesman said during the consultation meeting on Monday many in the audience were unhappy with answers given by the panel.

The group says the meeting finally fell to pieces when organisers tried to get the audience to split into round table discussions.

The SONIK spokesman said: “Splitting into round table groups would mean that people would have to discuss questions set out by the organisers. But most of the audience wanted to go on asking questions of the panel and refused to split into groups.”

It was at this point that a large number of the audience, which included health campaigners, walked out of the event.

The spokesperson said: “We believe the whole local NHS consultation process is a shambles. We are calling on the NHS authorities to abandon their present format for public consultations and instead hold proper public meetings where people can quiz officials and have a vote at the end.

“Most importantly, we must have an option on the table which allows us to have a stroke unit at Margate hospital.”

A petition raised to save Margate stroke services can be found here

More from SONIK can be found here

‘Hour of questions’

A spokesman for the Kent and Medway NHS group said: “The NHS is very grateful to everyone who came to the stroke consultation meeting in Margate on a cold, snowy night. After 30 minutes of a presentation and an hour of questions to the NHS panel, the meeting moved to discussions at tables, as planned.

“This was to support people who prefer speaking in a smaller group to have their say. Some people made it clear this was what they wanted, and the views and concerns they raised in those discussions were recorded, along with feedback from the earlier part of the meeting. Others did not want to take part in these small focused conversations and left at that point.

“We value every response to the consultation.”

Dr David Hargroves, Clinical Lead for Stroke Medicine at East Kent Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, said the reorganisation will ensure everyone gets the best care possible.

He added: “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.”

Thanet consultation events

Two more consultation events are scheduled for Thanet. These are at Minster village hall, in the High Street, on March 7 from 2pm to 4pm and St Peter’s Church hall, Hopeville Avenue, St Peters on March 24 from 10am to 12.30pm.

To find out more about the consultation and to book a place at an event, please visit www.kentandmedway.nhs.uk/stroke or call 0300 790 6796 or email [email protected]

Kent and Medway NHS has also agreed to use leaflets to notify residents in Thanet, Sheppey and coastal areas of the consultation events.


  1. 90 per cent wanted to continue open discussion, it was billed as a listening meeting, people were annoyed by top table not answering questions , nobody asked for meeting to go into small groups, we were ordered, that’s when 90 percent of the public refused to go along with this rigged consultation.

  2. What’s the point in a consultation when you are not listened to. It’s all a farce and they will just do what they want to do anyway.

  3. NO-One waits 3 hours in A&E in QEQM. An outrageous statement from the ‘spin’ doctor. At QEQM you are seen immediately if a stroke is suspected. Fight for your lives people if Thanet

    • 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.”
      So it makes ABSOLUTE sense to move a valuable service from a deprived region to a more affluent area which will increase the kudos of the high flying consultants and of course keep the shareholders happy – this is cherry picking people – we MUST FIGHT this overwise ALL of the main services will drain away leaving behind?….

  4. Just found the talk from the front really confusing and defeatist – they said they can’t attract people to work at QEQM because the pay and working hours are so bad – but ‘Ashford would be great’ because they’re investing £40 million for this place we can’t get to. Invest the £40 million in Thanet then! When a couple of people gave examples of how hard it is to travel for treatment now (£65 for a taxi for one patient) the top table just looked embarrassed and gave ‘no comment’ – even they don’t seem very convinced that cutting services is a good idea.

    • I agree with you on this; the panel seemed pretty stumped on a number of occasions. They actually looked embarrassed when the woman gave her account of getting to William Harvey to Margate with her sick daughter, how much it cost them, and what the alternative by public transport would be. It’s no surprise they wanted to close down the open Q&A as soon as they could.

  5. How long would it have taken to get to the William Harvey yesterday with all the snow? At least the patient might have stood a chance of treatment at QEQM hospital yesterday.my wife was transformed to William Harvey hospital at midnight two years ago. Unaccompanied apart from two ambulance men and has not forgotten the experience.

  6. Ashford is too far away. I know what theyre trying to do. Make one hospital the main one (Ashfors seem to be their choice) and Canterbury and Margate take recovery and anything Ashford hasnt got room for.

    But this is why theyre actually looking into the proposal of a super hospital at Canterbury, more central and all roads lead their thanks to the Romans. But at a cost and a need for a bipass to get to it really.

    They need to stop moving services for far away in east kent as west kent hospitals are not that far from Ashford, one being about 20minutes down the m20 away.

  7. Some of the questions they found tricky to answer at the meeting were: this plan means a reduction in the number of acute beds, how is this an ‘improvement’? Why don’t we train nurses to administer thrombolysis and then we could have more HASUs (Hyper Acute Stroke Units) rather than just 3 for the whole of Kent? Will you confirm that the STP (he body who designed the stroke review) is committed to saving £457m from Kent’s NHS budget by 2020? It was argued at length that three HASUs are not enough, we must find enough consultants to staff at least one extra unit and that the distance to Ashford is not safe for emergency treatment.

  8. This was billed as a Listening Event. The organisers should not be surprised to hear the very real concerns of Thanet residents who were only being offered the closing of their stroke unit. The questions from residents were not sufficiently addressed, the round table directed component was not requested by the residents and they were rightly suspicious of its aims. People are waking up to the nefarious goings on within NHS management.

    • Wrong, they (ccg) we’re supposed to listen to us the public, public were patronised eg you can get from Margate to Ashford in 45 minutes without breaking speed limits , also Ashford hospital postcode tn24 is in east Kent and not mid kent, serial liars who are endangering lives in thanet. Could be called cops rate manslaughter in the future !!

  9. There are grave concerns for stroke patients in Thanet should any of the 5 options go ahead. All 5 options have the William Harvey Hospital as the proposed closest stroke unit for Thanet residents. As one questioner said “this is not really consultation for Thanet residents as out of five options there is only one option for us which is William Harvey in Ashford”. The travelling time quoted by the ambulance service representative from Margate to William Harvey was 50 minutes. One questioner read out the recommendations from the stroke association that journey time should not exceed 30 minutes.
    Emotions were running high in the meeting with some people who have been campaigning on this issue desperate to get their questions heard and not happy with the answers. The format of the meeting started to break down when questioners refused to accept direction by chairman. Personally I was keen to have the facilitated smaller sessions where we could all get to ask questions in small groups and where answers could be robustly challenged with contradictions and inaccuracies recorded as part of the consultation. I was one of only 3 people that took part in this where we registered our concern in the way the consultation was handled with the assumption that everyone has access to the internet and is able to use it to research and respond and the notice for the consultation was too short. We also registered the Stroke Association quoting that the lack of staff should not be used to justify Hyper Acute Stroke Units when this was one of if not the main argument for the new unit to be in Ashford. The other main observation we made was that the demographic in Thanet and the 1% of the population of Kent that Will not be within the 1 hour recommended travel time, namely Ramsgate and the Isle of Sheppy, is one of a high percentage of elderly, a high level of poverty and the most vulnerable. The facilitator agreed that this may not have been taken sufficiently into consideration. I believe that this was a useful means of registering concerns and challenging assunptions and the more people that respond in writing, via email, via the website then the more chance we can bring about a change in the proposal and bring a hyper acute stroke unit to QEQM.

  10. I can confirm reports that I was told to leave meeting by security staff, and they put their hands on me, I told them to go away, when they refused I then told them in more direct terms, thanks to the actions of the public I stayed seated to hear the rest of the meeting, they were I presume they were acting on orders of the ccg who failed to intimidate me, I will continue to defend my constituents in Margate and their hospital ,

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