North Thanet MP backs option for hyper-acute stroke unit at Margate’s QEQM Hospital

Sir Roger has spoken out about proposed changes to hospital services in east Kent

The campaign to keep stroke services at Margate’s QEQM Hospital has received a boost with backing from North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale for a hyper-acute unit on the isle.

Kent and Medway NHS plans to remove services from hospitals including QEQM as part of a bid to create three hyper-acute units across Kent and Medway.

A shortlist of options for the specialist units lists only the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford to cover east Kent

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

Sir Roger has written to acute care director Patricia Davies to say that a fourth stroke centre in Thanet is necessary.

Sir Roger Gale 

In his letter Sir Roger says: “There is very considerable, if not overwhelming, concern that the needs of East Kent are not properly met by the partnership’s proposals of the ‘Three Centre Solution’ and, that in fact, a fourth centre is necessary -if the plan is to work at all – in Thanet at the QEQM Hospital.

“This, demographically, is a better location than the Kent & Canterbury Hospital.

“I hope that very serious consideration will now be given to the real public concern that has been expressed about these proposals and which I have already articulated myself.”

The NHS in Kent and Medway say 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 if the nearest centre is at the William Harvey Hospital. Members of Save Our NHS in Kent (SONiK) have consistently campaigned against the plans and say a fourth unit is needed in Thanet.

The group has welcomed Sir Roger’s call for a fourth unit.

A SONiK spokesman said: “We welcome news today that Sir Roger Gale is now backing campaigners’ demands for a Hyper-Acute Stroke Unit to be sited at Margate’s QEQM Hospital. We are now urging both Sir Roger and Craig Mackinlay to raise this matter in Parliament as a matter of urgency before the summer recess on July 20.

“Save Our NHS in Kent (SONiK) has been battling against a consultation process that left no option for services to be sited in the east of Kent. We have collected nearly 10,000 signatures on postcards and petitions calling for a fourth HASU in Kent. We welcome all those that are coming forward and saying there is no case for closing the service at QEQM.

“SONiK will carry on with its campaign to defend and improve all NHS services in Kent and Medway. Stroke services, A&E and GP provision is being cut and reduced.”

Photo Chris Constantine

County Councillor Karen Constantine, who serves on the KCC health scrutiny committee, said: “I am very glad to see that Roger Gale has seen sense in this essential matter. We need South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay the change his mind. He needs to back the vast majority of South Thanet residents who wholeheartedly reject this nonsensical plan to move much needed stroke services to Ashford.

“Labour and the health trade unions have been warning and campaigning to alert the public to these risks for several years. If anyone has concerns or issues they can contact me as the local elected representative on the Kent Health Overview and Scrutiny committee.”

Two reports examining the public consultation results on the changes to stroke services were published last month showing that although the majority of people who took part agreed that hyper acute stroke units should be established in Kent and Medway there were concerns over the location of the units, and travel times.

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.

Patricia Davies, who is Senior Responsible Officer for the Stroke Review, said in response to the consultation results: “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.”

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

Members of SONiK are today (July 7) holding a social and picnic event on Ramsgate sands to celebrate the 70th birthday of the NHS.

The event starts at 2pm.

Labour’s parliamentary candidate for South Thanet Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt is today walking the coast from Broadstairs to Ramsgate collecting signatures on a giant birthday card to present to NHS staff.

The walk is part of the Labour Party’s national celebration of the date 70 years ago when the NHS was first established.

Rebecca has been in Broadstairs canvassing public opinion about the NHS and then went on to the Labour Party stall in Ramsgate town centre.

On Sir Roger’s call for a Thanet stroke centre, she said: “I’m delighted that Roger Gale has come round to the idea that we deserve a hyper-acute stroke unit at QEQM. This is something that many of us have been campaigning for since plans to review stroke services were first announced. It’s vital that we retain life-saving services in Thanet and that Government cuts to the NHS are resisted.”


  1. Very glad to see that Roger Gale has seen sense in this essential matter. We need South Thanet MP Craig MacKinlay the change his mind. He needs to back the vast majority of South Thanet residents who wholeheartedly reject this nonsensical plan to move much needed stroke services to Ashford. Labour and the health Trade Unions have warning and campaigning to alert the public to these risks for several years. As usual if anyone has concerns or issues they can contact me as the local elected representative on the Kent Health Overview and Scrutiny committee .

    • I agree whole heartedly, we absolutely need an acute stroke clinic at the QEQM. There are thousands of pensioners in Thanet and their opinion matters.

  2. We keep being told how important it is for stroke patients to receive treatment within certain timescales. If QEQM is not chosen as a centre then these timescales could not be easily achieved. Ashford is too far as would Medway be. This puts the whole of Thanets population at risk.

  3. Come on people of thanet if we let the stroke centre move to Ashford mext we will lose A&E
    Then we will see the QEQM close for ever ?

  4. So Roger gets on the campaign at last, better late than never. What about his side-kick Craig Mackinlay, will he follow suit? These MP’s should have been looking out for their constituents right from the start, something that has been lacking lately with their own agendas at the forefront. Hopefully this will now give some hope to Thanet keeping it’s stroke services intact.

    • Yes he’s finally done it! Could have done with his support earlier on. What on earth was he thinking?

  5. Save Our NHS in Kent (SONIK) learned about Roger’s change of heart today by letter. We welcome it, and we are urging both him and Craig Mackinlay to raise the matter in parliament. In addition, we are writing formally to all councillors (TDC and KCC) to ask them to confirm where they stand. So far we are only aware of 11 councillors who have spoken out unequivocally on the issue. If you are a councillor and you want to make it clear that you DO NOT support the current plan to move stroke care to Ashford, then please email us at: [email protected]

  6. Both MP,s from the outset needed to say the consultation was flawed and DEMAND the QEQM was included. The reports are completed. I just hope Sir Roger hasn’t left it too late.

  7. Well done to Save Our NHS in Kent for the sterling work you’ve done fact finding and debunking myths. This must’ve made a positive impression on Roger Gale who earlier declared that stroke victims could be treated in the back of ambulances en route to Ashford. Time is essential in treating stroke victims. Let’s unite to keep our wonderful stroke service

  8. While delighted that the Member for North Thanet has changed his mind, he along with his South Thanet colleague knew this put their constituents at risk months ago. Sir Gale has now changed his opinion but not until after the seriously flawed consultation period officially closed. Well done to SONiK and local residents for demonstrating some ‘people power’ One may wonder why he left it so late in the day to listen to his constituents?

Comments are closed.