South Thanet MP says decision to scrap QEQM acute stroke unit ‘disappointing’ but will mean care improvements

Craig Mackinlay

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay has branded the decision by Kent and Medway health chiefs to close acute services at QEQM Hospital in Margate in favour of a specialist unit at Ashford “disappointing.”

But the MP says it is also time to “calm down the political rhetoric” and acknowledge the “positive improvements” that three hyper-acute stroke units will bring to the area.

On February 14, doctors on the Joint Committee of Clinical Commissioning Groups (JCCCG) voted in favour of proposals to overhaul stroke services and implement three hyper-acute units (HASUs) across Kent and Medway. Six doctors were absent from the vote.

HASUs, with seven day/24 hour specialist staffing and equipment, will be at Darent Valley Hospital, Maidstone Hospital and William Harvey Hospital – meaning the closure of acute services at Margate’s QEQM Hospital, Medway Hospital and Tunbridge Wells Hospital. Kent & Canterbury Hospital has already had its service withdrawn due to the removal of training doctors by Health Education England in March 2017.

The JCCCG expects the hyper-acute units at Darent Valley and Maidstone to go live in March 2020 followed by the William Harvey Hospital in spring 2021.

‘Fourth unit’

QEQM hospital

Mr Mackinlay said: “The decision of the Joint Committee to approve a three HASU model for Kent & Medway with Darent Valley, Maidstone and The William Harvey hospitals emerging as the final option is a huge disappointment to the residents of Thanet, and to campaigners who argued strongly that the QEQM at Margate should be a preferred third site, and a personal disappointment to me. The outcome I had been campaigning for was for a fourth HASU at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother hospital (QEQM, Margate).”

But he said, in light of the ‘shamefully poor’ stroke care across Kent and Medway – with QEQM rated a D from a possible A to E scoring – “more is the pity that we must wait until 2021 for the new configuration which will have better health outcomes, despite the issues of local accessibility.”


He acknowledged fears that Thanet patients would have to travel too far, with journey times to Ashford taking over an hour but added: “I am somewhat reassured that the HASU formula ensures that specialist stroke teams are likely to be better prepared for arrival of patients, will have dedicated stroke staff 24/7 and with the team, the very best of equipment meaning more rapid scans and treatment once at the hospital. This stands in some contrast to the situation now, whereby journey time might be short, but patients enter the waiting queue of ambulance arrivals and delay during triage assessments.”

Mr Mackinlay said NHS bosses were committed to improved rehabilitation services locally, adding: “Improvements to the ambulance pool are also proposed so that the time from call to pick-up can be minimised and improved for Thanet. The most serious cases of brain bleed will result in transfer to specialists in London, as now.

“The Joint Committee recognises that should a new Canterbury hospital emerge, then it would be likely that HASU facilities would move there from Ashford; all would welcome this proposal.”

The MP added that the issue should not be “used as a political football.”

One of the SONiK rallies  Photo Christine Tongue

Save Our NHS in Kent has been fighting for a fourth HASU at QEQM saying journey times from Thanet to Ashford will put lives at risk. The group is now urging members of the Kent County Council’s health scrutiny committee to vote to refer the decision back to government when they discuss it again on March 1.

In response to Mr Mackinlay’s statement SONIK has written to the MP saying: “We  must reiterate to you that this plan is dangerous for your constituents, and that the executives behind it have failed to provide adequate evidence for the claims they make about saving lives. On August 6th 2018, you said “I require the NHS planners to bring better evidence to the table”. No new evidence of the kind required has been produced since then, so can you explain why you have changed your mind?

“If you continue to support the JCCCG decision after being in possession of the facts in this report (SONIK research against HASU plan), then it will be remembered that you did so in the knowledge that the plans will seriously harm the health of your constituents and very likely lead to the eventual closure of the hospital and the loss of jobs.”


  1. Can Craig McKinley let us know how closing the stroke unit at QEQM and moving it to Ashford “will improve things”.

  2. We have just held a meeting “we” being the faceless wonders of of this area and we have concluded that by removing our two local MPs for being less than useless and not representing us voters it will save time and money. We suggest the pay of the MPs go to the stroke association. This will lead to improvement of the area.

  3. Craig,
    you do not see, hear, care or understand what it is like for most of us living in Thanet. You do not stand alongside us. You do not represent us with any vigour or care. You are vague about why things are so tough for so many of us. Losing our local stroke service is a tragedy. Austerity has hurt so many children in so many families. You and this government have not protected us. Our lives just get worse and worse and more and more impoverished. What do you do with all the money we pay to the government? I have never been so badly governed.
    Losing the stroke service will improve things for others but it is clearly yet another loss for Thanet.
    When are you going to open your eyes and see what is really happening and then start to improve the situation?
    At the moment you are walking past on the other side.

  4. So having to drive for over an hour to receive treatment if you are unfortunate enough to have a stroke is an improvement of the service!!! Only this government would have the nerve to say something that a 5 year old might question.
    Day by day we are being taken for fools and now they will make the most of it following the Labour resignations, MP’s have chosen to hand the tories a get out of gaol free card. Can’t think of any Tory that would go with their principles and resign, mainly because they don’t have any principles.
    Mackinlay and Gale probably can’t believe their luck, in any other period they would have been out on their ears or another part of the anatomy. What is going on ??

  5. It appears that Thanet is the cannon fodder for NHS cut backs in Kent and residents will soon be left to die in the back of ambulances on a criminally negligent 75 minute drive.

    Will our local MP be telling us next that Thanet residents are better off when we also lose our Accident and emergency department ?

    There is going to be 21000 new homes built in Thanet for the London overspill, Thanet has already got a larger population than Canterbury and still the NHS sees fit to massacre our local hospital and strip it of life saving departments.

    Are we soon to be witnessing NHS assisted euthanasia but without the patients consent on an industrial scale in Thanet?

  6. Seen it all before. Hold fire, a person I know who just so happens to work in the newspaper world has told me that some Conservatives MPs are planning something tonight. It should be news tomorrow 70% of an event.

  7. Another person who thinks that because Thanet and Sheppy are the arses of Kent we should just lay down and accept his and the NHS bosses decision. He should remember that there is a ballot box with voting for the likes of him to disappear . He was elected to represent the public not to go on his own agenda.

  8. Mackinlay’s obsession with anyone criticising the Tory party being merely political rhetoric absolutely confirms his complete lack of self awareness and inability to understand the needs of his constituents. He needs to have his executive thinking skills tested!

  9. Ah ha! Pitiful sentiments from Mr Mackinlay and co.

    It’s all too much to bear, only the health of Thanet residents at stake. Let’s move on to bigger and better things. Brush it under the proverbial carpet.

    Well actually Craig I think most here won’t let this go so easily.

  10. It’s ironic that at a time when many people are moving to live in Thanet and new hotels are being built to attract ever more tourists here, Our one hospital loses its stroke unit and other cuts look likely to follow.
    A health warning should be given to new arrivals and tourists alike.

  11. A stroke can fool the ambulance service staff when they eventually arrive and start their checks. I know recently a man in his 40’s was having a stroke but the ambulance staff did checks but thought he didn’t need to be taken to hospital. They left him with advice for partner to call their doctor the next morning if no change. After a few more hours she called another ambulance who when arrived diagnoses a stroke and took him directly to QEQM. It was too late by then and he unfortunately passed away.
    What our MP’s don’t understand, or don’t want to understand is that from time of phone call for ambulance, time of checks, time of diagnosing a stroke, which exists in several forms, and time of getting to hospital and treatment starting can add up to several hours already, so then adding a journey of over an hour to all this getting through rush hour traffic, through Canterbury onward to Ashford hospital it will be too late for so many more stroke patients than before with the relative short journey to QEQM, no matter what better expertise is on offer there. How dare our MP’s take this almighty approach on the miscarriage of justice over our health services. Will Mr Mackinlay and Mr Gale be saying “sorry but hard luck” when the statistics are released in a few years time? Probably not, will they be providing us all with life insurance or medical insurance? Probably not. Will we all be able to sue the decision makers in court for the removal of vital health services from the population of Thanet? I damned well hope so!

    • Top surgeons say “anything that makes it harder for patients to receive the health care they need is not a good thing”, making what these decision makers on the clinical commissioning groups say about the move to Ashford a complete and total whitewash. The act F.A.S.T. adverts put out by Public Health England are also disregarded by these jobsworths.

  12. Our local MP is great at self-promotion and supporting ridiculous waste-of-money projects (such as crowdfunding a Royal yacht) but when it comes to looking after the interests of his own constituents, he is found wanting time and time again. He stands up in Parliament and spouts off about Brexit often enough but he seems blind to the health needs of the people of South Thanet. Everyone knows he divides his time between Chatham and London (driving to and from Broadstairs for Conservative Party meetings) and that he only pays lip-service to the interests of Thanet.

    • I believe MP’s should live in the area of their constituents to be candidates for the role. They need to be able to feel and breath what their constituents and residents do so they have the proper knowledge to take on what the people want them to represent them with. Both our MP’s live outside Thanet and have no idea and the wrong ideas of what we need and want for a better future.

  13. Then again, what else can Craig Mackinlay say? He is a loyal Tory MP who supports austerity cuts to public services. Austerity has consequences. These include the loss of stroke services at QEQM. He makes the necessary noises about working hard to save the local stroke services but then accepts the cut as “disappointing”. Along with the “disappointing” cuts to bus services, the “disappointing” loss of library opening hours, the “disappointing” closure of sure Start centres, the “disappointing” loss of over 20,000 Police Officers over the last ten years, the “disappointing” increase in Food Bank use due to the changeover to Universal Credit for people in full-time work whose pay is so low they cannot feed their families, the “disappointing” increase in the homeless sleeping on the streets etc etc.

    Then again, it will all be so much better after Brexit, won’t it!? Craig Mackinlay is very keen on Brexit. He won’t be “disappointed” by Brexit at all. All those booming car factories and British-made vacuum cleaners to look forward to. It’s so exciting, you might think people would forget about reality and vote for him again, just to enjoy Brexit.

    • Just how “loyal” is he? He was UKIP and now Tory, so not that loyal after all..
      And he’s so forgetful, it’s time to be put out to grass. He forgot, for instance, that he had an airline company when he backed the reopening of Manston. “Oh, Mama Airlines? What? Oh, I didn’t think it was necessary to declare an interest… Apologies to the House.” Loyal, my foot! He’s not interested in representing his constituents. He’ll go wherever he can make a dollar.

  14. 0: number of times Craig Mackinlay has spoken in the HoC about QEQM or acute stroke units;
    7: number of times he’s spoken in the HoC about Manston Airport (neglecting on occasion to declare an interest: he’s director of an airline).
    I too fail to see how increasing the journey time is an improvement. There might be exemplary treatment at the end of the journey, but it’s not much use if you arrive dead.
    Maybe, for stroke victims living in Thanet, to save a lot of faffing about, just send a hearse rather than an ambulance.

  15. With Tory MP’ what did thanet expect??……I really can’t understand why thanet is a Tory strong hold when we are screwed by them over and over again

  16. The planned 30-40k increase in the population before 2030 will inevitably bring a relative increase in % terms of people requiring stroke treatment. Just hope and pray you or your loved ones don’t require the treatment when that happens, or even sooner when we have an extra 20-30k down here for one of the excellent summer events on a hot weekend and the roads are even more crammed. As stated previously by another poster, whats the point of “better” treatment at the end of the journey if you deteriorate on the way to it! Not to mention friends and family (often old and car less) who wont be able to get to Ashford. Thoughtless, callous and pityful decisions. If this is “looking after our Health Service” I dread to think what will happen if the Govt drifts to the Right and starts to really dismantle it.

  17. “journey times to Ashford taking over an hour but added: “I am somewhat reassured that the HASU formula ensures that specialist stroke teams are likely to be better prepared for arrival of patients,”

    They have a bigger mortuary?

    Ridiculous statement.

  18. This is just another service QEQM is losing, it will not be long before the focus will once again fall on the Accident & Emergency department, and other essential services at QEQM. It is ok for our MP’s who I would wager have private health care to fall back on should they become ill.

  19. Ann, this person you know in the press…’s not George Osborne is it? He’s been stabbing everyone in the back since him and Cameron were sussed out.
    As I say, if Tories jump ship, it will be nothing to do with principles more like they might be thrown off the gravy train they’ve been riding since 2010.
    By the way, everyone on this site seems to have an issue with Mackinlay and Co. how come they’re still in charge?
    Nothing to do with a rigged general election when they feared being done by their Nemesis…Little Nige.
    Keep,in touch!

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