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.
The shortlist, which is subject to further assessment and final approval, is:
- Darent Valley Hospital, Medway Maritime Hospital, William Harvey Hospital
- Darent Valley Hospital, Maidstone Hospital, William Harvey Hospital
- Maidstone Hospital, Medway Maritime Hospital, William Harvey Hospital
- Tunbridge Wells Hospital, Medway Maritime Hospital, William Harvey Hospital
- 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.
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.”
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 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.
“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: www.facebook.com/saveournhskent
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