Christine Tongue: I’ve been consulted again and ignored again

Christine Tongue

We’re all told that if you think someone’s having a stroke you have to act quickly – time is brain, they say, as delays in treatment literally lead to brain cells dying.

Over the last year I’ve been to endless “consultation” meetings about our local hospital. Basically the powers that be in the NHS in our area want to move all acute stroke services to Ashford, even though we’ve got a very efficient stroke unit in QEQM.

These meetings usually involve men in suits telling us how they’ve thought about this really carefully and the outcome they’ve decided is for the best. But they have to look as if they’re consulting us so we get to give our opinions, fill in surveys and write to them. They call them “listening events” but it’s mostly been about us listening to them and them not listening to us!

But we in Thanet realised that we are going to get the worst bit of the deal a long time ago. The hint was that the options we were being asked to vote on for where the top notch stroke units were to be located were nowhere near Thanet. We were supposed to choose between a combination of hospitals but not including our local one, QEQM.

The nearest unit will be at Ashford, an hour away from Thanet, if you’re lucky with traffic. At one of the “listening events” someone from the ambulance service admitted it was at least an hours drive to Ashford from Thanet, even though the person leading the discussion had said it was 40 minutes.

Not surprisingly we were a bit upset. Especially people like me whose blood clots very willingly – I’ve had one thrombosis already so I’m at risk of clots getting going again and this time heading for my brain – a stroke!

I joined a campaign group, Save Our National Health in Kent (SONIK), which has done its own research and found fault with most of what we’ve been offered. We’ve had demonstrations, sent in petitions, thousands of people have lobbied their MPs and the local health bosses, got cross party political support etc etc. Hundreds of us from all over Kent marched in freezing February winds because no-one wants this new system.

Thanet has a high prevlance of stroke, according to a report by the kent and Medway Public Health Obsevatory. This is because we’re poor and unhealthier than, for instance, those in north Kent and we want to take our strokes to QEQM.

Now the results of the “consultation” are out, and guess what? We’ll have to go to Ashford with our strokes! The stroke unit at QEQM will have to close. The staff are unhappy but daren’t speak out and we – the likely stroke patients are furious.

If you see the side of my face fall, an arm drops and my speech slurs, you’ll have to get me Ashford.

But if you have time before then SONIK is planning a protest on Saturday October 6th at 12 noon outside the QEQM on the Ramsgate road. We need to make people listen, not just pretend to! The final decision is not until December or January. There’s still time for us to be heard.


  1. And the two Tory MP’s for Thanet, who are supposed to represent our best interests like MP’s are doing in other areas about to lose their stroke services, here they are unusually keeping as quiet as a mouse, “why is that” I hear you ask? it’s because they don’t want us to keep our services at QEQM , they think it is better for us to travel over an hour to a hospital elsewhere because the treatment there should be better. Huh, but what about the brain dying off rapidly with each minute wasted waiting for treatment? treatment Thanet residents should be able to receive at QEQM in Margate within good time?
    Why do we have representatives when they do not represent us? These useless MP’s need to go.
    I intend to be on that Protest on October 6th at the QEQM and anyone who wishes to keep these services at Thanet please show up and give your support too. We must not give up on it like those bureaucratic pen-pushers who think they know best.

  2. This will not concern those who can afford private medicine and those who do not need to rely on public transport to visit someone in hospital.

    A return rail ticket for one person costs £13.30 from Ramsgate to Ashford plus the cost of buses at each end. You will need to either time the journey carefully so you do not miss the hospital bus from the station which is hourly or walk into town to catch a bus to the hospital.

    Do not even think of using your ancient person’s bus pass. the journey will take you more than two hours one way and on a Sunday you will need to be agile and take your packed lunch. there are 3 changes and it takes nearly 3 hours.

    do we think that the people taking these decisions on our behalf have any idea what our lives are really like?

  3. I am disgusted by this outcome. No matter how much business speak you dress it up in, it still says “I don’t care about the vulnerable!”

  4. Apart from stroke patients being sent 40 odd miles from Thanet, there is the problem of visitors who don’t drive, not being able to see their loved ones in the William Harvey, as no sensible public transport exists! Christine is right, the CQC doesn’t listen to people, they are an unaccountable body doing the governments bidding, and to hell with the rest of us who have paid into National Insurance all our lives!

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