A consultation event will be held in St Peter’s on March 24 on plans to create a hyper-acute stroke unit at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford.
The hyper acute unit would serve east Kent and so mean the removal of the stroke service at Margate’s QEQM Hospital. It is part of a wider proposal by the NHS in Kent and Medway, Bexley in south east London and the High Weald area of East Sussex to create three new 24/7 hyper acute stroke units in Kent and Medway, meaning the removal of services from other sites.
Consultation on the plans runs until April 13. A listening event will be held at St Peter’s Church hall in Hopeville Avenue, St Peter’s, at 10am on Saturday, March 24.
Semi-retired NHS psychiatry consultant and chair of the Broadstairs Labour Party Dr Dick Symonds speaks about the view of members from the Campaign for Stroke Care in Thanet by the Thanet Labour Parties and ‘Save Our NHS in Kent’ (SONIK), that a fourth hyper acute unit should be situated at the QEQM:
“We entirely agree the need for Hyperacute Stroke Units (HASUs) in Kent. They have worked well in improving stroke outcomes in London. But Kent, the largest county, is not London, and this is not entirely a medical problem, but is as much a public health problem.
The key questions of a ‘stroke’ are: is the stroke a brain clot, a brain bleed or a brain tumour, or something milder? ‘Clot-busting ‘ drugs improve the outcome in clots: but may worsen the outcome in bleeds and tumours. To decide when to use the drugs, expert clinical examination and crucially, radio-imaging, must be used very rapidly. ‘Time is brain’. Brain cells damaged by the clot are lost, but the area surrounding them can be saved and is vital in recovery. The brain can make new connections, if taught to do so, by specialist physiotherapists and other therapies. All this means expert teams.
The stroke service in Queen Elizaabeth the Queen Mother Hospital (QEQMH) has been blindly assessed in the near past and found to be the best performing in Kent. The basis of that expert team is there, but they need more facilities to become a HASU.
Thanet is a deprived area of Kent with a higher risk of stroke. Approaching 150,000 population on the rim of Kent, it is over an hour best travel time to the nearest proposed HASU, William Harvey Hospital. The M20 is the main route from channel ports, often blocked by accidents and ‘Operation Stack’. Conventional public education and medical literature all suggest an hour as the crucial time from stroke (not ambulance arrival) to assessment, in order for the assessment and treatment to be implemented within a total of 4 ½ hours.
Only Thanet Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has the legal power to implement major service changes, and so far the decision has not been made. We respect the physicians’ expertise but they can only advise on a service, not implement it. This why it is a public health issue for our NHS authority, Thanet CCG, which has to ensure that our citizens are treated equally with the rest of Kent, for an equal chance of a good outcome.
Siting a HASU, in the QEQMH, is the way to achieve this and should have been obvious, but such developments are being pruned back through lack of government funding and this is the real reason for not covering the whole of Kent with 4 HASUs. HASUs are the sort of welcome improvement which makes for inflation in the NHS. The government’s slightly increased funding for the NHS does not meet the inflation.
If you are poor in London, your stroke will be treated rapidly: however rich you are in Thanet, you might be treated too slowly. You cannot fall back on private medicine. They don’t handle acute stroke care because there is no profit in it. For emergencies, only the NHS will save you. Our NHS.”
A different view: Stroke service proposals: Consultant Dr David Hargroves
To find out more: www.kentandmedway.nhs.uk/stroke – to read the consultation document and find meeting dates.
To find out about the SONIK campaign go to www.saveournhskent.org.uk