Health campaigners will hold another rally this weekend in protest at plans to shut the stroke unit at Margate’s QEQM and replace it with a hyper-acute unit at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford.
Save Our NHS In Kent (SONIK) campaigners say continued pressure could result in a rethink on plans after The Kent and Medway Sustainability & Transformation Partnership (STP) recently announced the consultation period over stroke services would be extended by an extra week.
SONIK says the week’s extension, until Friday, April 20, is a direct result of campaigning. The Kent and Medway partnership says the decision was made because snow in February and March meant some meetings were postponed and extra dates were added. A spokesman said the partnership wanted to ensure people had enough time to respond.
A SONIK spokesperson said: “The STP say they’re extending the consultation process because of time lost through bad weather but we believe this just an excuse.
“We wrote to them recently accusing them of falling down on their legal duty to consult properly and now they announce an extension. This is not a coincidence.”
Campaigners say they will step up pressure by holding the rally in Margate this Sunday (April 8).
The spokesperson said: “We are going to demand that NHS bosses rethink their plans to shut down the stroke unit in Margate’s QEQM Hospital.
“If we let them close our stroke unit down, people in Thanet are going to have to travel farther and we believe some of them will die. This campaign is a matter of life and death.”
The WHH hyper-acute stroke unit would be one of three proposed for the region. The Kent and Medway STP says hyper acute stroke units will reduce deaths as each will have a multi-disciplinary team of specialist stroke clinicians, seven days a week caring for patients in the critical first 72 hours.
SONIK campaigners are also holding an exhibition about the stroke service plans at the 6 Lombard Street Gallery in Margate. from Friday, April 6 to Tuesday, April 10, 11am-3pm.
The SONIK spokesperson said: “So far, we believe a misleading picture of the plans for stroke services in Kent has been presented to the general public. This exhibition will give people a chance to see the reality of the situation.
“It’s claimed that reorganising stroke services in Kent will improve outcomes for death and disability, but there is no evidence that we can find to support this in relation to non-urban areas.”
Peter Dunne of Birchington, was rushed to Margate’s QEQM hospital last Summer due to a stroke and treated successfully.
Mr Dunne, 75, was asked what would have happened if he’d had to go to Ashford, as is is proposed by plans put forward by local NHS bosses. He laughed and said: “That is a joke on its own. That would have cost lives, that journey. It’s a busy road at the best of times.”
He added: “Lots of elderly people have strokes. If they have to travel that amount of time they are going to lose their lives, definitely. It’s an absolutely stupid idea.”
Patricia Davies (pictured), senior responsible officer for the stroke review, said: “This consultation is about saving lives. I wouldn’t be leading it otherwise. As someone whose father has had a stroke, and whose family has had strokes, I am very aware of the impact of stroke on families. As a nurse – I still am a registered nurse – I trained to save lives.
“We believe our consultation process has been fair and transparent and, while we are sorry that Save Our NHS in Kent thinks otherwise, we refute their allegations.
“Patient group, Healthwatch Kent, recently scrutinised the stroke review to date. In a public letter, Steve Inett, chief executive of Healthwatch Kent, wrote that ‘we have scrutinised all the evidence which showed how many people have been involved so far from all parts of our community.
“ We were reassured that so far, the stroke review has adequately and effectively managed a robust and fair review of stroke services and involved local people in a meaningful and constructive way.”
The rally to save the stroke unit will assemble on Sunday at noon in the Market Square, Old Town, Margate. People are invited to bring their own placards, whistles and music instruments.
Find rally details here
Find the SONIK petition against the stroke service proposals here
Find out more about the consultation and complete the survey by visiting www.kentandmedway.nhs.uk/stroke