Kent and Medway health bosses plan to create stroke rehabilitation hubs in Thanet and other communities across the area as part of an overhaul of services.
The idea comes on the heels of a decision to create three hyper-acute stroke units across Kent and Medway– with services earmarked to be provided at William Harvey Hospital in Ashford for all east Kent patients.
NHS bosses in the region say centralising units will improve outcomes for people who have had a stroke due to expert care from a 24/7 stroke specialist team for the vital first 72 hours. But the plan will mean the loss of emergency stroke services from Margate’s QEQM Hospital as well as at Medway and Tunbridge Wells hospitals, something Save Our NHS in Kent campaigners are adamantly against.
SONIK say journey times to Ashford are more than one hour and this will have devastating consequences for the vital window for treatment. Campaigners insist there should be a fourth unit at QEQM.
The campaign has received support from many residents, including those who backed the fourth unit option -and retaining A&E services at QEQM – in a show of hands at an NHS event in Ramsgate last month.
The final decision on hyper-acute unit locations is expected to be confirmed in January or February.
As part of the review, health professionals in Kent and Medway say they are now designing new stroke rehabilitation services, including the hubs.
Rachel Jones, Director of Acute Strategy and Partnerships for the NHS in Kent and Medway, said people taking part in the consultation on hyper-acute units had raised the issue of the need for better rehab.
In response work to improve rehab and make it available as close to home as possible has been increased.
Rachel (pictured) said: “In the future, all stroke patients will be assessed by a dedicated team of rehabilitation specialists. This team will meet patients while they are still in hospital and consider all their needs – physical, emotional and social – in conjunction with the hospital team, the patient and their family or carers.
“Once patients leave hospital, the rehab team will mean stroke survivors and their families have a ‘one stop shop’ for help and support. The team will work together with survivors and those who care for them to help them make the best possible recovery.
“We’ve heard from survivors and their loved ones, that the weeks and months after stroke can be very isolating. Rehab hubs could not only help the NHS to organise services more efficiently but also give stroke survivors and their carers vital opportunities to get together, share experiences and get a range of support.”
Care will include rehabilitation therapy at home and in clinics as needed for up to six months; intensive rehabilitation at home three times a day, seven days a week; care in an inpatient rehabilitation unit for up to six months or care in a nursing or residential care home.
All patients will have a dedicated six-month review, something which doesn’t consistently happen now, to check on their progress and identify any support needs. Other services offered will include access to mental health specialists, help with returning to work, and advice and information for families and carers.
Kent and Medway NHS says the new approach to rehabilitation must happen at the same time as the implementation of hyper-acute stroke units.
In response to the announcement a SONiK spokesperson said: “In light of this announcement about rehab hubs in Thanet, Save Our NHS in Kent wants to make sure the following points are understood:
- The Acute stroke unit at QEQM is still closing, therefore all emergency treatment will take place at William Harvey. All patients who call 999 that are suspected of having a stroke will all be taken to Ashford to be treated in the first instance, driving past QEQM, and not being assessed for clot busting drugs until they get to Ashford and have a scan. We are told the highly experienced and trained specialist acute stroke medics who work at QEQM have been given documents already stating that they will all have to relocate to Ashford if they wish to continue working in acute stroke care.
- The announcement gives the impression that the rehab hubs are a response to public concerns raised during the consultation, whereas these hubs were mentioned by the NHS managers way back in Jan 2018 at the first meeting at County Hall of the JCCCG (a recording is available online of this 3 hour meeting). It has always been their intention to provide some sort of non-emergency rehab, but they didn’t provide the full details at the time of consultation, meaning that the public didn’t get to scrutinise the rehab plans.
Thanet is still losing its stroke unit, and very likely its A&E too…
Details on the plans will be updated on kentandmedway.nhs.uk/stroke.