Stroke service proposals: SONIK’s view on Minster consultation meeting

SONIK spokesperson Carly Jeffrey

The second public consultation meeting regarding the reconfiguration of stroke services in Kent took place yesterday (March 7) at Minster Village Hall.

The meetings are being held by senior managers at Kent and Medway NHS to explain their proposals to reduce the number of acute stroke units in Kent hospitals, centralising the services at just three locations. The hospitals for mid and west Kent are yet to be decided according to the proposal, but East Kent’s is designated as the William Harvey Hospital at Ashford.

The local Labour party, as well as campaign groups CHEK (Concern for Health in East Kent) and SONIK (Save Our NHS in Kent), have voiced objections to the plans. The latter has held protests outside QEQM Hospital, which will lose its stroke unit if the plans go ahead, to be replaced by a Hyper Acute Stroke unit (HASU) at WHH.

At the NHS Listening Event, Liz Shutler, of East Kent Hospitals, explained that the location of A&E services is also tied in with the stroke unit plans, explaining that wherever the future A&E goes, the HASU will follow. This will fuel existing concerns in Thanet that QEQM may be earmarked to lose its Accident and Emergency service in addition to its stroke service. A&E configuration is due to be reviewed this year and a public consultation is expected in the Summer.

The crowd at the meeting expressed many concerns including the safety of ambulance journey times from Thanet to Ashford which is approximately an hour away. The panel were also challenged robustly on their reasoning for planning just three units for the whole county.

Spokesperson for SONIK Carly Jeffrey, who attended the meeting, said: “We think that the panel learned that they can’t keep using urban areas like London or Manchester as examples to champion the centralisation of services. The audience made that clear. We at SONIK are still waiting for clear and detailed information that demonstrates that this method is safe and effective for rural areas with a large geography like ours.”

Watch a video of the meeting here.

A public consultation is now underway and Kent residents are urged to respond before the closing date on April 13.

Save our NHS in Kent has an online petition against the closure of QEQM’s stroke unit here, and can be contacted via their website www.saveournhskent.org.uk or saveournhskent@gmail.com

The next Thanet consultation meeting is at St Peter’s Church hall in Hopeville Avenue, St Peter’s, at 10am on Saturday, March  24.

Report by Carly Jeffrey of SONIK