‘Hospital service cuts’ protest held outside North Thanet MP’s surgery in Westgate

SONIK campaigners in Westgate

Health campaigners held a demonstration this morning (November 3) outside Westgate Library during North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale’s surgery time.

Members of Save Our NHS in Kent gathered with placards to present research to the MP as part of their fight to retain services, including immediate stroke treatment and the accident and emergency department, at Margate’s QEQM Hospital.

Campaigners say the action was in a bid to change Sir Roger’s stance on plans for a Hyper-Acute stroke unit at William Harvey Hospital in Ashford – meaning the emergency service will be removed from Thanet.

NHS bosses in Kent and Medway are proposing three hyper-acute stroke units in Kent and Medway — with the nearest one to Thanet being at Ashford.

General stroke services are provided in all the hospitals across Kent and Medway, including the QEQM, but there are currently no specialist hyper acute units. NHS bosses in the region say larger, specialist units in other parts of the country have been shown to improve outcomes for people who have had a stroke.

Stroke rehabilitation services will remain at local hospitals with patients taken to Ashford in an emergency being returned to QEQM, Deal, Herne Bay or Canterbury for follow up treatment.

But campaigners say the one hour journey to Ashford is too long and could have life-changing or threatening outcomes. They want an option for a fourth unit to be sited at QEQM.

Sir Roger spoke to campaigner Pauline Farrance, who had made an appointment, but berated campaigners for singing and chanting in the library reception area.

Breaking off his talk with Pauline he told protesters he would not have his surgery “turned into a circus.”

SONIK members had asked to be included in the meeting with Pauline but were refused.

Campaigner Cameron Dougherty spoke to the MP before the demonstration. He said: “He told me he has made his decision based on the evidence from the CCGs. He said he supported the hyper-acute proposals and said he had been assured that anyone taken to Ashford would be returned to their local hospital within a period of two days for rehabilitation.

“His mind is made up.”

SONIK spokesperson Carly Jeffrey said: “Roger Gale should be representing his constituents; the majority of those constituents do not support the loss of the stroke unit from QEQM.

“We do not think he fully understands the proposals and we want to present briefing documents to him. There is not much time left but we need to make him change his mind. There is no evidence that centralisation improves services and if it is not improving it then there is no reason for the plan.

“If the real reason is staff shortages then it should be billed as that.”

Pauline said during their discussion the MP stood firm on his stance over hyper-acute units and said the ambulance service did have issues but was now likely to improve under a new chief executive.

Sir Roger did however voice his support for keeping A&E at Margate, saying he did not believe a plan to build a new hospital in Canterbury would happen.

Kent and Medway NHS commissioners are also currently holding ‘listening events’ to share with the public proposals for changes to services including A&E, maternity and children’s inpatient care.

Two options have been put forward:

Option 1: Ashford will have a specialist A&E, and full maternity care. QEQM will retain an A&E unit, but it will have fewer services than it does now. QEQM will lose consultant-led maternity care as will Canterbury, meaning that women giving birth who are having complications may need to be transferred to Ashford. Canterbury will continue to have a GP-led Urgent Treatment Centre which was put in place after A&E was removed from the site.

Option 2: Canterbury will have a new hospital building provided by a developer in exchange for house-building permission on prime land. Canterbury will have acute, specialist services such as full A&E and consultant-led maternity. Ashford and QEQM Margate will lose A&E and full consultant-led maternity care. They will have GP-led Urgent Treatment Centres.

SONIK is campaigning for A&E at all three hospitals and a new petition has gained more than 1,200 signatures so far.

Sir Roger said the assessment of his conversation with Cameron was “fair.” Although the MP had originally suggested looking at the option for a fourth unit he recently said: “I believe that the distribution of all health services should be made on the basis of sound medical judgement and not upon emotion or party-political interest.

“I have discussed the location of services with those who are expert in the subject on a number of occasions and I am satisfied that, given the planned safeguards, the decision taken and based upon three Centres of Excellence is the best practicable solution to provide the best patient survival and recovery rates – and that is what matters.”

Following the library protest campaigners moved on to Birchington to collect petition signatures and hand out leaflets.

Find the petition here

Find the Thanet ‘listening events’ and more details on the proposals here


  1. We now that Roger has read the Save Our NHS briefing documents, he confirmed that today. Which means that he knows that the claim that the stroke plan will improve care is false. If he knows this, why is he backing the proposals? Why does he agree with this experiment on the people of Kent?

  2. I should point out that I have tried on numerous occasions to make an appointment to speak to Roger through the normal channels; he has refused to meet me because I live in Ramsgate, and am therefore in South Thanet, not North Thanet. Under normal circumstances, that would be fair enough, but the people of Thanet use the hospitals in his constituency. Also I speak for a local campaign group with a lot of followers in North and South Thanet. I have met my own MP twice, and he won’t commit to raising the matter in parliament, and right now he is limited in what he can do because he is in court for much of the week. Roger Gale’s complacency on the matter of the QEQM and his choice to ignore the wishes of Thanet people is shocking and just shows how complacent he has become. This is not a small issue, it is a major one for this area. Today he refused to shake my hand and told me to ‘stop talking’. But this movement is growing, and it won’t be silenced.

  3. Well let’s hope for his sake and any of his family that they should need the stroke unit and have to travel to Canterbury or Ashford. Be too late then won’t it.

  4. We’ve spoken to 1000’s of North Thanet constituents, not one apart from Roger Gale agree that our stroke services should be moved to Ashford. Not one. We’ll have a General Election quite soon, the constituents will remember their MP and Cllrs jeopardising their health outcomes. We’ll remind the electorate re the stance of their prospective representatives.

  5. Roger Gale certainly looked ruffled, angry and very, very uncomfortable by our presence outside his surgery at Westgate library today; maybe its because it’s starting to get to him; its hard to continually defend something which you know ‘deep down’ to be intrinsically ‘wrong’! A wrong can never be right! Your angst is testimont to the inner turmoil I believe you are fighting! Shame on you Mr Gale! How do you sleep at night knowing you are not looking aftet the people of Thanet whom you are ‘supposed’to support!

  6. He needs reporting to the parliamentary select committee over his refusals to act for the majority of his constituents on two counts, Manston and the NHS QEQM hospital stroke services. He obviously thinks he is above all others and is always right, but he should be ashamed of his lack of action on this and do as he was reportedly informed to us several months ago, retire Mr Gale and let others take your place who wish to act on our behalf not their own.

  7. When backed into a corner because your position is becoming increasingly difficult to justify, one method of distraction is to point the finger. Roger has taken to saying that SONIK’s reasons for campaigning about the stroke unit are party political. He doesn’t think that people might fight the closure of the stroke unit because of F.A.S.T, or because we know that millions of brain cells are lost every minute that a stroke goes untreated. He doesn’t think that locals might disagree with travelling one hour (or more) in an ambulance to Ashford to reach treatment for a time sensitive condition that requires very rapid treatment, otherwise death or disability may result. He doesn’t imagine that people who use the QEQM, or have been treated there for stroke in the past, might challenge plans that move such a crucial service so far away. He doesn’t think that concerned citizens might take time to read the documentation and the studies, and find that claims made about ‘improvements’ are false. He doesn’t think that people who have always used the NHS, who were born in the NHS, whose family and everyone they know use the NHS for all their health needs, might genuinely want to defend their local hospitals. He doesn’t think that people may recognise the pattern of the piece-by-piece downgrading of a hospital, having seen it already happen in Canterbury. He doesn’t think that people might simply be angered by an experiment being conducted on the people of Kent, with Thanet the most adversely affected, and think… ‘I’m going to fight for my hospital, and I’m going to challenge my MP about the lack of evidence for this plan’. In his eyes, it must simply be party political, or ’emotional’ – people could not driven by a belief in the NHS, by a wish to retain good local NHS services, and they can’t be capable of critical thinking or scrutiny of the facts. SONIK do not bring party politics into our campaigning, we are very clear about that. Saying that we are is an attempt to undermine us; but all the people we’ve spoken to on the streets of Thanet and beyond know that we have one aim, and that is to stop the closure of the stroke unit, and to stop similar closures in the area, such as the attempt to reduce A&E provision in East Kent. Roger should not be so quick to denigrate the actions of ordinary people who disagree with him on this. Argue the points with us Roger, explain to us where the evidence is that this will work for an area with over 10% of the population outside the 45 minute zone. Show us, if you can, where else in the country this has happened before. We have challenged the Kent and Medway STP to do this, and they are unable to, all they have managed is several replies that skirt around the subject. Show us one bit of evidence (not a guideline) that demonstrates that centralisation into HASUs that are over 45 minutes away will bring about improvements to death and disability in patients. Explain to us why we should not be worried about the piecemeal downgrading of our hospital. Please wake up to your own complacency, Roger, and remember that you work for us!

  8. Sir Roger has voted for all of his government’s NHS reforms, which have led to this round of cuts to NHS service provision. He has also voted for all of his government’s reforms to benefits, which have fuelled the poverty which can increase the risk of stroke. If anyone is interested, they can see his parliamentary voting record on Hansard at theyworkforyou.com

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