South Thanet MP calls for hyper-acute stroke unit plan to include Canterbury or Thanet option

Craig Mackinlay

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay is asking the Kent and Medway NHS to re-examine plans for hyper-acute stroke units across the region to include an option at Canterbury hospital if QEQM in Margate does not make the grade.

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

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

William Harvey Hospital

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

Health bosses 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.

Campaigners want to see stroke services retained at QEQM

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 campaigned against the plans and say a fourth unit is needed in Thanet.

The QEQM option has also been put to acute care director Patricia Davies by North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale.

Mr Mackinlay says he still backs the plan for hyper-acute units but is concerned that Ashford would be too far for isle residents and would run against the FAST advice of the first hour being the crucial window for treatment.

He said: “I am most concerned at the distance and time to Ashford which runs contra to FAST advice, and the golden hour that the Department for Health has pushed at us, correctly, for many years.

“I am fully supportive of Hyper-Acute units, I believe the evidence supports them. The health trust needs to convince me and others that what they propose will improve outcomes. There is, of course, the glaring problem of staffing more units, which has been cited as one of the reasons the three unit proposal has been put forward. None of us are close enough to HR to assess the veracity of that claim.

“Canterbury, instead of Ashford might be the better solution all round, if QEQM cannot be a location for well-argued reasons.”

Photo Chris Constantine

County Councillor Karen Constantine, who sits on the authority’s health scrutiny panel, said: ““I am pleased that Craig Mackinlay is listening to his constituents. That’s good news for Thanet’s vital stroke service. We must now work with the NHS and the CCG to ensure a HASU is sited in Thanet or at a distance that doesn’t put Thanet residents at any risk.

“However I remain seriously concerned that our NHS is underfunded and we have too few staff. Craig’s Government needs to listen to the people too.”

Cllr Constantine said the Canterbury option couldn’t be ruled out but questions would then need to be raised over what other services might be lost from Thanet.

She added: “A&E would easily be downgraded for an Estuary View type  MIU, which many GPs say they like.

“We’d need cast iron guarantees and full sight of a convincing overarching plan. One thing is certain the public have no appetite for any more piecemeal consultation . We want to see the plan.”

Developer Quinn Estates has offered to donate land and the shell of a new Canterbury hospital to the NHS as part of a development deal for 2,000 new homes, which would include an access road from the A2. It would be subject to planning permission.

Commissioners say this would be less than half the cost of building a new single site hospital on green belt land, which would cost some £700million and take 10 years to construct.

SONIK campaigners

SONiK has welcomed the call for a fourth option to be examined although the group wants QEQM to be that option.

A spokesman said: “Craig Mackinlay does seem to have changed his stance as of yesterday, and we welcome that. The people of Thanet who wrote to him, spoke to him and signed the SONIK petition can thank themselves for doing a good job in holding their local MP to account.

“SONIK presented him with some good counter evidence, which we believe has also had an effect. SONIK have more to ask of him though; we want more than just words on a website. We will be pushing him to raise the matter in Parliament, calling for a rethink of the plan to have only three stroke units in Kent.

“We will be asking him to meet with us again. And we will be asking that he does everything in his power to stop the cutting of services at QEQM and makes this his top priority. Meetings behind closed doors is not enough, we want to see him speaking up for QEQM in public and denouncing the drive to cut our hospital services in Thanet and all of Kent.

Photo Chris Constantine

“SONIK believe that stroke services must stay at QEQM hospital due to the unsafe and untested journey time of one hour to Ashford. We also have concerns that the removal of such a fundamental and urgent service will lead to a domino effect, where our A&E and many other services will also be lost. We have seen this happen to our neighbours in Canterbury, where their hospital has been diminished over many years. We stand for three excellent hospitals in East Kent, with three full A&E departments.”

Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for South Thanet, accused Mr Mackinlay of “muddying the water” with the Canterbury option.

She said: “For months, Mr Mackinlay has accepted this proposition and has refused point blank to raise the issue in parliament. Miraculously, he seems to have changed his mind – but only to the extent of throwing in a total red herring. Now he’s apparently saying ‘how about having a hyper acute stroke unit at Canterbury instead’. This is an ill-advised and ill-informed intervention. 

“My position, and the position of health campaigners such as Save Our NHS in Kent, is that we must have three excellent hospitals – at Ashford, Canterbury and Margate – and not allow any of them to be run down.”

The SONIK campaign group can be found online at:

Mr Mackinlay’s news update, where he speaks about the stroke proposals, can be found here

Find all the stroke plan updates from the Kent and Medway NHS here


  1. Craig says ““Canterbury, instead of Ashford might be the better solution all round, if QEQM cannot be a location for well-argued reasons.”” — if Craig had looked at the NHS pre-consultation business case, he would know that the units have all been assessed already, and QEQM is one of the units that is fully staffed, and doesn’t have a staff retention problem. The reasons for knocking out QEQM from the process never made any sense; East Kent Hospitals just said they couldn’t staff two units, and inexplicably QEQM dropped of the list of options.

    I really wish this MP would do his homework or at least consult SONIK before making unhelpful statements.

    The Stroke unit at QEQM must not be closed – to allow it would most likely mean the gradual demise of the hospital. Roger Gale is supporting QEQM as the option, whereas Craig Mackinlay is non-committal about saving services in his own constituency.

    K&C needs to have its A&E back, and QEQM must keep its stroke unit and its A&E. We must fight to ensure we keep good district general hospitals in light of the national plans (outlined in the Keogh urgent care review) to erode the hospital setup that we are all familiar with, without a national consultation or parliamentary scrutiny.

  2. A thought – how will people get to Ashford when operation stack is in place and all the surrounding roads are full of traffic? Has this been considered in the light of Brexit and the likelihood of holdups at the Port of Dover?
    It just doesn’t make sense to exclude the QEQM

  3. Yet again SONIK does all the legwork here, especially Carly Jeffrey and Cllr Constantine jumps on the bandwagon – again.

    • Not sure who’s behind this pseudonym. I’d like to say thanks for the recognition for SONIK, but also point out that SONIK welcomes all campaigners on this important issue who have raised awareness of this issue (whilst the authorities tried to keep it low profile).

      • Cllr Constantine, the link refers to a letter you wrote in 2015. Your reply also fails to acknowledge the effort and application Carly Jeffrey put into persuading Craig Mackinlay to support keeping the Stroke Unit and hopefully a HASU at the Qeqm.

  4. As a strong supporter of sonik and a fellow county councillor of Karen’s , I think they are not opponents but comrades fighting the proposals to destroy Margate hospital, our enemies are the people who are not interested in the people Of Thanet. I support both Karen and sonik in their joint efforts.

  5. Canterbury Hospital is a poor hospital option with poor facilities, whereas the QEQM stroke unit can have a further injection of money that the CCG has come up with, East Kent is unique in that it has a large population in a small area but with poor road links, so the William Harvey Hospital is not an option to the residents of East Kent.
    The public consultations were not really consultations but more of a “this is what we are doing if you lie it or not”, we need real, thorough local public consultations, with local GP’s, Consultants and the like.

  6. This is such an important issue for local residents, the journey time to Ashford is too long to be within the one hour timeframe and SONIK have campaigned hard in relation to the facts around Stroke services and making them known to the general public. A further concern is the downgrading of other services at QEQM including A&E.

  7. It’s such a nonsense to close any units of any health care at all, we should be doing the opposite and expanding QEQM with the very real possibility that 2000 or so new homes will be built in Thanet. This will be the case whether the Manston site is used for housing or if other pockets of land are used. So more people equals more ‘custom’ for the hospital. Are there any statistics on how many times the A2/M2/M20 is impassible? One accident can close all three lanes on a motorway – even to ambulances – and none of us want to be the stroke patient in that ambulance which is crawling slowly round the outskirts of towns with all the other slow moving vehicles which have been diverted off the motorway.

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