Stroke service consultation responses show demand for fourth specialist unit in East Kent

QEQM hospital

Two reports examining the public consultation on changes to stroke services – which could mean the closure of the service at QEQM in Margate- have been published today.

The NHS in Kent and Medway has outlined activity from the consultation, which closed in April, and the public responses in the reports.

Health chiefs want to create three hyper acute stroke units for Kent and Medway.

A shortlist of options for the specialist units lists only the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford for east Kent, meaning the unit at QEQM would shut down.

The NHS in Kent and Medway – which includes all 8 Clinical Commissioning Groups – Bexley in south east London and the High Weald area of East Sussex are now consulting on the proposals.

The shortlist, which is subject to further assessment and final approval, is:

  1. Darent Valley Hospital, Medway Maritime Hospital, William Harvey Hospital
  2. Darent Valley Hospital, Maidstone Hospital, William Harvey Hospital
  3. Maidstone Hospital, Medway Maritime Hospital, William Harvey Hospital
  4. Tunbridge Wells Hospital, Medway Maritime Hospital, William Harvey Hospital
  5. Darent Valley Hospital, Tunbridge Wells Hospital and William Harvey Hospital

The NHS 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.

But Thanet campaigners say isle lives will be at risk because of journey times to Ashford. Members of Save Our NHS in Kent (SONIK) have consistently campaigned against the plans.


A SONIK spokesman said: ““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.

““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.”

There were some 5,000 responses during the consultation period which have been  analysed by DJS Research, an independent research consultancy.

DJS say the majority of people who took part in the consultation agreed that hyper acute stoke units should be established in Kent and Medway.

But the location of hyper acute stroke units, and travel times to the proposed units, are the key area of concern, with particular concern for people living in Thanet. Many feel the geography of the area means that four units would be better in order to provide fair and equal access to all residents.

QEQM Photo Chris Constantine

Many respondents in the CT postcode area – which includes Thanet -did not feel any of the options were suitable and said Kent and Canterbury Hospital or Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital should be re-considered as part of the short-list.

There was also a particular concern over whether after care, including rehabilitation services and care in the community, is being considered as part of the review, and the impact that hyper acute stroke units will have on these services.

DJS say that while many people understood the reasoning behind having three proposed units in the area, and specifically the argument that it would be difficult to staff more than three units, some felt that staffing should not drive such decisions, and that more should be done instead to improve recruitment and retention of staff.

The repost also says people generally think the two most important questions to ask about the proposals are whether they will improve access to care and whether they will improve the quality of care.

William Harvey Hospital

The two options preferred by the majority of those responding to the consultation were:

  • Option A (Darent Valley, Medway Maritime and William Harvey Hospitals), closely followed by Option B (Darent Valley, Maidstone and William Harvey Hospitals).

The next steps of the process will include:

  • Summer to early Autumn: detailed consideration of the consultation responses and establishing whether any viable additional options have been put forward to evaluate in detail, agreeing the approach to the evaluation of the shortlisted options, meeting with the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, evaluation workshops
  • Autumn: identifying a preferred option, development of the ‘decision making business case’, including discussion with the South East Clinical Senate, NHS England and NHS Improvement and the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee
  • Winter: final assurance process with NHS England and NHS Improvement, and the Joint Committee of CCGs meeting to agree the preferred option for implementation

Patricia Davies, Director of Acute Care for the Kent and Medway Sustainability and Transformation Partnership, and Senior Responsible Officer for the Stroke Review, said: “We would like to thank the thousands of people who took the time to contribute to the consultation. We welcome the many and varied responses and feedback received and the richness of conversation and debate about what we know is a complex and often emotive subject.

“We certainly all want the best for ourselves and our loved ones.  We acknowledge and understand the range of views, and in some parts concerns, expressed from many different parts of Kent, Medway, south east London and East Sussex.  The views we have gathered will play an important part of the next stage of decision making.

“Our next steps are to consider the consultation responses alongside the agreed evaluation criteria, and all the other available information, evidence and data that the review has gathered in order to reach a preferred option. I would encourage those who want to keep up to date with the review to ensure they have subscribed to the Kent and Medway NHS bulletin via our website at

The reports have been published on the Kent and Medway STP website at:

Find the SONIK petition against the stroke service proposals here


  1. Responses were tiny (less than 1per cent) in all areas other than Thanet where the’ none of the above’ option was included by sonik giving people the option for Margate to keep its strike unit. Yet again is singled out by the Tory stooges in the Kent nhs

  2. They are no listening, they have totally ignored theconcerns of the people of Thanet. AGAIN. when will these overpaid people come and listen to our concerns, rather than dictate to us what they think in their ivory towers.

  3. Why are our two MP’s for Thanet not getting involved with the campaign to save the Stroke Unit at the QEQM? They seem to prefer to have the services taken away over to Ashford! The sooner they are ousted and replaced by others who would actually care about their constituents health and wellbeing rather than this pair we have that only care about themselves and their business friends the better.

  4. We all accept that specialist Stroke Units can save lives by being located as close as possible to all potential patients. So it should not be a “choice” as to “how few” , and “how far away” they are to be built. They should be located in as many places as possible. Not just Ashford, but Margate AND Canterbury and even Dover/Folkestone as well.
    Think about it. If a particular cure for ,say, cancer became available, would we tell lots of victims that they will lose out because they live in the wrong place? Of course not. If the treatment is effective, we make it available to all. Similarly, specialist Stroke Units should be available to ALL, because they work. So they should be located in as many districts as possible to ensure maximum success.

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