South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay has launched a residents’ petition to present to Parliament urging the Secretary of State to review a decision to close acute stroke services at Margate’s QEQM Hospital
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as at Medway Hospital, Tunbridge Wells Hospital, and Kent & Canterbury Hospital – which has already had its service withdrawn due to the removal of training doctors by Health Education England in March 2017
But Mr Mackinlay is now urging his constituents to have their say in the closing stages of the decision making process and has established a local petition in a bid to maintain stroke services at QEQM Hospital. He will present it under the Petitions procedure to Parliament.
The MP, who previously said the decision was ‘disappointing’ but would mean care improvements, said: “The decision by the Joint Committee of Clinical Commissioning Groups for Kent & Medway Stroke Review, endorsed by the Joint Health and Overview Scrutiny Committee in Kent recommending a three Hyper Acute Stroke Unit (HASU) option for Kent has caused understandable local concern.
“Whilst I have written about this decision at some length, and remain uncomfortable about it, I can understand the rationale behind the conclusions, but worries remain about geography, distance and time from Thanet to the William Harvey Hospital, Ashford which would become, by 2021, the relevant HASU to serve Thanet and Dover District residents.
“What has become very clear, across the huge amount of data, reports and statistics presented by the NHS body, and campaigners, is that stroke services across Kent, having some of the lowest national ratings of ‘D’ and ‘E,’ need urgent reform because we deserve the best. HASUs elsewhere in the country have raised standards, improved recovery and saved lives so the concept has my support.
“In response to the online campaigns, emails and letters that I have received it is now only right to present local views to Parliament, by means of a Parliamentary petition. This will be read out in the House of Commons Chamber, becoming part of the Parliamentary record and is designed to elicit an appropriate response from appropriate government Ministers.”
Campaigners from Save Our NHS in Kent (SONIK) have welcomed the move but say they are concerned it does not go far enough. Spokesperson Carly Jeffrey said: “SONIK are pleased that Craig Mackinlay is taking this important step. He will have had a lot of public pressure since his comments recently that the outcome should be accepted, and this will have led him to do the right thing.
“We hope he will make a strong case in Parliament and talks about the likely rise in mortality rates that could result from the hour long journey that Thanet residents will be subjected to. We have sent the SONIK stroke report to him; we hope he will read it and use it to highlight how very wrong this plan is.
“SONIK are a bit concerned about the wording on the petition; it asks only for the conclusions of the JHOSC and JCCCG to be reviewed. Their conclusions found in favour of the plans, so what will this achieve? It is the plan itself that needs to be looked at.
“If our MP is going to ask the public to sign this, then he should word it so that the plan can be altered – this won’t do that.”
Fellow campaigner Helen Whitehead added that the group was disappointed to see a statement from North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale today (February 27) saying stroke units will not be closed.
She said: “”On the same day Roger Gale has made a statement in which he denies the plain fact that the stroke unit is set to close. The mind boggles as to what Roger thinks he is doing. It is also very irresponsible to mislead the public in this way.”
County Councillor Karen Constantine added: “I welcome Craig’s petition. I have been urging him to raise this in Parliament for a while and he now needs to throw his weight behind the community and work to stop the closure of the Stroke Unit at QEQM.
“There is a new Thanet Stroke Campaign, which is cross party and community focused. There is a public meeting at the Oddfellows Hall, Ramsgate on March 13 at 7pm. We are going to work together to fund a Judicial Review. If the HOSC doesn’t stop this disastrous decision at the specially convened Stroke HOSC meeting on March 22.
“I would also like to publicly ask Craig to work closely with me to prevent any decline in stroke services at QEQM prior to the HASU being commissioned in 2021.
“Other options need to be explored urgently. In Essex a single HASU is being set up but with a “treat and transfer” approach where some milder cases are treated locally and only the most serious cases are sent to the HASU. We need to explore this idea for Thanet.”
Rachel Jones, Director of the Kent and Medway Stroke Review, said: “We fully understand that MPs need to represent the views of their constituents in the House of Commons. We have met with Mr Mackinlay to discuss the plans to improve stroke care in Kent and Medway, and he has been broadly supportive, while acknowledging that his community are worried about travel times.
“As we have said many times, the journey to hospital is just a small part of stroke care; what makes the real difference to patient survival and outcomes is care in the first 72 hours on a hyper acute stroke unit. We believe we will save an additional life every fortnight as a result of making these changes to stroke services.”
Sir Roger’s statement says: “There is not, and there never has been, any plan to ‘close’ the stroke unit at the QEQM Hospital in Margate.
“The proposal to treat acute stroke patients in a newly created and fully-funded specialist ‘Hyper acute’ unit in Ashford is based upon a hard- nosed and realistic assessment, taken by properly qualified medical professionals, of the best and proven way to provide modern treatment to offer acute stroke patients the greatest chance of life and a good recovery.
“That unit will, when open, cover a wide area of our county and of East Sussex and it will be large enough to offer the throughput of patients that is necessary to attract both the best consultants and the young trainee doctors that will be the neuro – physicians of tomorrow.
“The stroke unit at the QEQM in Margate will, far from being ‘closed’, be upgraded to augment other local hospital and community facilities to at last provide the recovery and rehabilitation services that have been and still are so lamentably lacking in East Kent. That is not ‘putting lives at risk’. it is a plan to save more lives and to ensure that those who suffer from acute strokes stand the best chance of making a decent recovery rather than ending what remains of their lives in severe disability and indignity.”
However, acute stroke services at QEQM will be closed in favour of the HASU at Ashford, which is scheduled to open in Spring 2021 following a £20.9million new build of a 32 bed ward, linked to the existing stroke ward to create a single unit.
Health professionals in Kent and Medway are now designing new stroke rehabilitation services, including hubs, which they say must happen at the same time as the implementation of hyper-acute stroke units.
A rehabilitation business case will be presented to CCGs this Spring.
Print the petition and ‘wet sign’ it for your view to be properly recorded. Send completed forms to 4 The Broadway, Broadstairs, CT10 2AD by Friday, March 15.