South Thanet MP vows to take stroke services petition to Parliament – but campaigners say it does not go far enough

Craig Mackinlay (second from left) at a SONIK protest rally

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

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as at Medway Hospital, Tunbridge Wells Hospital, and Kent & Canterbury Hospital – which has already had its service withdrawn due to the removal of training doctors by Health Education England in March 2017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.

Craig Mackinlay

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.”

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

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.”

SONIK spokesperson Carly Jeffrey

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 Gale 

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.”


Health bosses plan to improve rehabilitation services

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.

Find the SONIK page here


  1. Will Thanet residents be taken to the QEQM initially. Once reasonably stable transferred to Ashford to help with further recovery, transferred back to Thanet for continued recovery then sent home for a day nurse or expect the patient to make their own way to one of the super surgeries where you could be seen by any doctor or nurse who is on duty and knows nothing about you.

    Scare mongering I don’t think so.

    Realities are, the population of Thanet could increase by 68,000 by 2031 if the Officers, Planning department at TDC and central government get their way.

    I see where everyone is coming from especially Hospital managers.

    • It’s easy for Mr Mackinlay to play the hero by arranging a petition to Parliament. But he voted FOR austerity, the programme of cuts to public services that has led to the reduction in stroke services at QEQM. Are all the MPs around the country playing the same trick? Voting to deprive the public of the services we need, then making a big noisy protest when it happens. Hoping we don’t notice that he voted for it!!

    • Isn’t he just flowering up his point by stating that stroke recovery services will remain local but your first port of call will be Ashford if you survive that far

    • Surely it is only central government who could be described as wanting to “get their way” regarding this huge increase in Thanet’s population. The council officers and the local planning department are constrained by government requirements.

      I don’t “see where everyone is coming from”, and would like to know what R means, in his/her 3.59 comment, by this phrase.

  2. Huge thanks to the Save Our NHS in Kent Campaign. You have made the public aware of these disasterous plans collecting signatures for petitions and handing out leaflets every week since you heard the stroke unit was to close and fought hard for support from MPs. Terrible that Gale is so ignorant of the facts

  3. The Southend treat and transfer idea mentioned by Cllr Constantine is not going ahead as locals and campaigners protested about it for months on end. Eventually they got the plan referred back to the secretary of state. It’s definitely NOT what we want here. Southend Save Our NHS campaigned against treat and transfer “because of the absolute lack of safe and timely transfer available and their failure to provide credible solutions”.

  4. Wow, am I seeing things? I’m sure I just saw Batman and Robin joining demonstrators rallying against the Conservstive Governments Health departments decision to close the stroke unit at QEQM. What a bloody nerve they’ve got, is there no end to their bare faced skulduggery, these two idiots have been taking us for a ride for years.
    This government will go down in history for finishing off what Thatcher tried to do and will double talk there way to their idea of utopia….give to to rich…..rob the poor! God help us!

  5. At last a statement from Sir Roger! He has been notably silent over this (and Brexit). A play on words as a typical political reply. Before you you these upgraded rehabilitation facilities, first you have to survive. They will also be soon overflowing because people who would have been eligable for thrombolotic treatment (which can make SO much difference to recovery or lessen symptoms) will be ineligible because of the time elapsed caused by distance traveled. Sir Roger, get your head out of the sand and make a stand rather than be a good little Tory so as to get a peerage.

  6. raig A far more effective idea is to join the Medway Council judicial review of NHS decision. Cite the failure of planners to weight environmental hazards to health in Thanet. A history Craig and Roger both want to dodge IMO>

    How long has there been as yet unanswered questions about safety of Thanet water supply ? 56 years !!

    How long since public health doctor said there must be health impact study re Thanet water supply history ? 11 years

    When has TDC ever complied with statutory duties re environmental hazards to health and promotion of public health? Never

    Now under questions from National Planning what is TDC up to ? Admitting as secretly as possible it never safeguarded the Manston aquifer which is Thanet main water supply.

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