Health boss says judicial review delay over hyper-acute stroke units would “result in more deaths”

QEQM Hospital Photo Chris Constantine

The Director for the Kent and Medway Stroke Review says delays to plans for new hyper-acute stroke units will inevitably result in ‘more deaths and more disability.’

Rachel Jones has responded to calls from health campaigners who want the decision to axe QEQM’s acute unit in favour of a specialist unit at Ashford referred back to government by Kent County Council’s health overview committee when they meet on March 1. Suggestions from county councillor Karen Constantine and others are that the decision should be taken to judicial review.

A final decision on the location for three hyper-acute stroke units (HASUs) across Kent & Medway was confirmed by the Joint Committee of Clinical Commissioning Groups (JCCCG) at a meeting in Maidstone on February 14.

The units will be at Darent Valley Hospital, Maidstone Hospital and William Harvey Hospital – meaning the closure of acute services at Margate’s QEQM Hospital as well as at Medway Hospital, Tunbridge Wells Hospital, and Kent & Canterbury Hospital – which has already had its service withdrawn due to the removal of training doctors by Health Education England in March 2017

The plan is for Darent Valley to have a 34 bed unit, Maidstone General Hospital 38 beds and William Harvey Hospital 52 beds.

One of the SONiK rallies protesting at the hyper-acute stroke unit proposals Photo Christine Tongue

A sustained campaign against the proposals has been conducted  for more than a year by Save Our NHS in Kent, isle county councillors and many members of the public.

SONiK has been fighting for a fourth HASU at QEQM and is now urging members of the health scrutiny committee to vote to refer the plan back to government.

Cllr Constantine said if the referral failed the issue may have to go to the courts. She said:“ It’s time to come together to start a Judicial Review (a court proceeding where a judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action made by a public body.) This won’t be easy but working together I believe we can do it.”

Rachel Jones said people’s concerns were understandable but the decision had been reached on the basis of “the huge body of evidence set out by the Royal College of Physicians’ 2016 guidelines on stroke.”

She added: “As the stroke consultants said recently, the reality is, sadly, that any stroke patient who dies within a few hours of having a stroke would almost certainly have died whether they were at home, in an ambulance or being cared for in the best stroke unit in the world.

“For the very small percentage of patients whose strokes are the cause of almost instant death, or who fall into a coma and never wake up, currently little can be done.

“However most people will survive their stroke, and the critical factor for them is how we can reduce their risk of dying in the following days, minimise their risk of long-term disability and therefore improve independence.

“While undertaking the stroke review, we have considered the health and wellbeing of  the entire population who use Kent and Medway stroke services.


“We have carefully considered population growth, deprivation and travel times to potential hyper acute stroke units in our review. We believe the rigorous process that we have followed and the decision we made will enable us to best meet the needs of our whole population, and save an extra life a fortnight.

“We will, of course, comply with any requirements that a judicial review or referral to the Secretary of State brings but are aware that this will have an impact on the implementation of the HASUs across Kent and Medway.   Any delay to implementation will inevitably lead to more deaths and more disability than if we are able to go ahead as planned.”

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.

A spokesman d=for campaigners SONIK said: “We are very interested to know where the new claim that an extra life will be saved every fortnight comes from, and we will be asking Rachel Jones to clarify. All the evidence we have seen shows a very different story – including a study that shows death rates can rise by 21%. You can read the SONIK report showing the dangers of relocating urgent stroke care so far way at The list of problems with the stroke plans is long, and quite frankly, shocking.”

Photo Carly Jeffrey

The decision has been branded “disappointing” by South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay but he added that  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.”


  1. It is completely untrue that suspected stroke patients join a queue at QEQM, they are taken by the ambulance immediately to the stroke unit, which has special access at the rear of A&E. Saying this is peddling lies, Mr Mackinlay has obviously been told that but it simply isn’t true. The so called ‘hyperacute stroke unit’ at Ashford does not offer ANY services above what is already operating 24 hours per day at QEQM. Travel a lot further for the same service, risking death and disability.

  2. This is the talk of bullies who had made up their minds right at the start of this process. The QEQM was never in the running. To resort to threats of this nature makes them less then professional.

    They should not have shut down options early on before beginning their restricted consultation process.

    The lack of any real listening, proper acknowledgement of our concerns and the complete lack of any genuine kindness in this process has led to a decision which meets their technical needs only.

    I feel like I do not count. That is a dangerous thing to do to a group of people.
    It was also completely unnecessary.

    • If what Sharon Goodyer and Coral Jones writes is accurate and basically true, (which I presume IS true) then I whole heartedly and completely agree.with them both. Very well expressed.
      The idea of taking away vital and necessary Hospital services from Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital is not right for the long term future of the Hospital AND the future prosperity of Thanet in the round. Thanet’s best possible chances of an excellent future for growth in attracting industries to the area and sustaining a fabulous attraction for the hotel and tourism sector here in Thanet and building quality housing for rent and ownership with wonderful amenities and a growing young population ( not forgetting the distinct possibility of a successful commercial airport ) having modern great social services includes in the Thanet Jigsaw a fully equipped A&E Hospital with state of the art Heart and Stroke and Maternity units, which we nearly have already and can build on for the FUTURE. Every part of the Thanet Jigsaw is needed for establishing a prosperous future.

  3. Save our NHS in Kent have been phenomenal in their campaign to stop this abysmal decision.
    KCC councillors need to refer to whole thing back to the Secretary of State for Health. Unfortunately Thanet doesn’t have a representative on KCCs decision making body any longer

  4. More deaths !!!!! It will show what idiots they are by closing the THANET stroke unit. It will be an increase in deaths of Thanet patients. Our MPs are not fit to hold office for allowing it to happen. They could not care less. I hope the voters remember how they vote at the next election.

  5. Are we going to have an increased Ambulance service to cope with the extra time that they are on their minimum 2 hour journey to Ashford and return. When they are in Ashford they are not available for a much longer period to deal with local medical issues than before.
    This decision also makes a complete mockery of those TV promotions stating that the first hour is critical. Suddenly, this is not the case so who has, and still is, lying through their teeth to us?
    As for our two MPs, words fail me in the same manner that they have both failed the residents of Thanet.

  6. Rachel Jones, her team and their families are obviously based in the areas that will be well covered by her health review, none of the people who voted for this decision will have families dying in ambulances on an unnecessary hour long drive.
    If Rachel Jones or any of the doctors who voted for this sham actually lived in Thanet they would not have let these plans pass. Rachel Jones and her cronies are sentencing Thanet residents to an early grave.

  7. Stroke patients at qeqm are NOT left in a queue… please inform Craig McKinley of the facts as that is a complete and utter lie. Stroke calls are a priority and expected time of arrival is given ahead so that the specialist stroke team can prepare! I cannot believe what Craig McKinley is telling people. Please report the truth about stroke services at qeqm

  8. So, most stroke victims who would die anyway even if they had a stroke unit close by are considered to be not worth worrying about. Yep, this is Conservative Britain 2019, only one thing they ever consider “The Cost”. You can be certain the morons making this decision will not be living anywhere other than somewhere that this decision will not have an impact. Mr. Mackinlay, perhaps…….what, you mean he doesn’t live in Thanet or Roger Gale, well enough said. Two complete wasters who have stood by while Thanet is stripped if anything worth keeping. Come the day!

  9. The complete lack of any comment by MP Roger Gale just shows he knew the decision had been made before consultations began. The consultations are just a sham, a complete waste of time and money. Roger holds his Thanet constituents in contempt with his disregard. He obviously has bigger fish to fry with his business pals and their DCO attempt crap.
    There will be more claims going in against the NHS for failing to look after patients in their care to the best of their ability once this gets going, unless a review of this incompetence sees the light and changes things around.

  10. Ashford is not coming on line till next year or year after so what is she talking about?Why are Kent having to cover South London and some of East Sussex and leaving most of East Kent without cover?

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