Campaigners celebrate ‘first victory’ as acute stroke unit plan is referred to Government by Medway councillors

Sonik campaigners Carly Jeffrey, for Thanet, and Steve Wilkins, for Medway, celebrate the vote

Medway councillors on a Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee have voted to refer to government the decision by the NHS Joint Committee of Clinical Commissioning Groups (JCCCG) to implement three hyper-acute stroke units (HASUs) across Kent.

The hyper-acute unit plan, agreed by health bosses last month, would mean the end of acute stroke services at hospitals including the QEQM at Margate.

The nearest unit to Thanet will be at Ashford’s William Harvey Hospital. Units at Darent Valley and Maidstone are due to go live in March 2020 followed by WHH in spring 2021.

Campaigners from Save Our NHS in Kent have been fighting the proposals for more than a year and say a fourth HASU is needed at QEQM.

First victory

The vote tonight (March 12) by the Medway panel means the decision will now be scrutinised by Secretary for State for health Matt Hancock.

A decision is also due be made by Kent’s health scrutiny committee on March 22. Legal advice is being taken by the panel over whether a decision can be made during purdah in the run up to this May’s local elections.

Sonik say the recommendation is a huge victory for Thanet people.

SONIK spokesperson Carly Jeffrey said: “This is the first victory in what will be a long fight to stop the cuts to our essential hospital services, and to keep QEQM open.

“SONIK are very pleased with this result, and congratulate each councillor on the committee. It was a unanimous vote. Now for the big push to get Kent County Council to do the same.

“The health scrutiny committee of Kent county council meet on March 22 to discuss referral back. It’s a big day, and we’ll all be watching. We hope those 17 councillors do the right thing.”

SONIK is holding a public meeting in Ramsgate on Thursday March 28 at 7pm. All are welcome to attend. this will be an update on the campaign to save the stroke unit at QEQM. The meeting is at Broad Street Hall, 3a Broad Street, Ramsgate.

Rachel Jones, Director for the Kent and Medway Stroke Review, said: ““We are disappointed that Medway Council’s Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee has decided to refer the decision on the location of hyper acute stroke units in Kent and Medway to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care for an independent review.

“Councillors from the Medway scrutiny committee were involved at every stage of the stroke services review process, including the evaluation of options, which was carried out without naming the units involved to ensure a rigorous and unbiased  process.

“Medway NHS Foundation Trust supported the proposals for a hyper acute stroke unit model which will be able to provide expert care, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, reducing patients’ risk of dying in the days after a stroke and minimising their risk of long-term disability. We accept there was disappointment that Medway will not be one of the HASU sites, but the leadership at the trust have committed to working towards the new model.

“While undertaking the stroke review, we considered the health and wellbeing of the entire population who use Kent and Medway stroke services. We carefully considered population growth, deprivation and travel times to potential hyper acute stroke units. We believe the rigorous process we used and the decision made by local doctors from across Kent and Medway will enable us to best meet the needs of our whole population, and save an extra life every fortnight.

“We will, of course, comply with any requirements that may arise as a result of the referral to the Secretary of State. However, this could well have an impact on the speed of 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.”

County county councillor Karen Constantine said: “I am much more hopefully that we will achieve a reference back to the Secretary of State at the next Kent HOSC on March 22. I will be tabling that motion.

“We now need urgent investment here in Thanet. We have a D rated hospital and that isn’t good enough for Thanet residents. Yet again a nonsensical restructure exercise means we are distracted from solving the problems and issues under our nose.

“We need sufficient beds in Thanet to deal with our anticipated stroke numbers and adequate rehabilitation services, which we don’t currently have. We also need an expansion of social care to enable timely and supported discharge.

“It seems likely that the Quinn backed Canterbury hospital proposal will come into the frame and we’ll be up in the air for 5 years.  Whilst many areas on the outskirts of London do struggle to attract and retain staff our staffing situation could be more stable with some effort.

“Without a clear plan, the proposals for HASUs across Kent need scrapping whilst we think again. Any future consultations must be much much better.

“I hope at our community meeting tomorrow night all sections of Thanet community will support the reference back.”

A stroke campaign meeting, co-chaired by district councillors Jenny Matterface and Ros Binks, will take place on  Wednesday (March 13) at the Oddfellows Hall, 142 High Street, from 7pm.


  1. Rachel Jones is disappointed her cuts can not be implemented. Good, the people of Thanet deserve better.

    Big thank you to the independent campaigners, all of whom are volunteers, for putting pressure on the powers that be, studying the data and tirelessly working on our behalf.

    Shame elected officials Paul Messenger, Roger Gail and Craig Mackinlay tried to sell us down the river.

  2. Good news for Medway, but won’t help us in Thanet, which is more deprived and further away from a planned HASU than Medway is. The Thanet Stroke Campaign meeting on 13 March will explore our options for getting the harmful decision to not to have a HASU at the QEQM reversed.

    • That’s not really correct. The whole stroke plan has now been referred back, so it does help Thanet. Possibly not for long, as Medway’s case is weak, but it still helps. It stops them from proceeding, as they won’t be able to get the funds approved from NHSI. We need the Kent HOSC to refer back as well, and with a stronger case, one that argues that three HASUs aren’t enough, that the journey times are unsafe, that SECamb won’t be able to cope, that capacity in the 3 HASUs won’t be sufficient and that Thanet must have a HASU. These arguments are detailed here, in this report from SONIK (Save Our NHS in Kent)

  3. Brilliant result and a HUGE thank you to SONIK who have raised this issue.
    We need the same outcome for Thanet when Councillors vote at the end of the month.
    Everyone needs to write to their local representatives to ensure they REFER IT BACK

    • Thanet District Council has no role in this as it doesn’t have those executive powers that Medway or KCC have. TDC isn’t voting on this although the cabinet advisory group didn’t reject the NHS questionnaire as flawed because it didn’t include QEQM. It’s KCC you need to persuade to refer it back.

      • I think the vote that Rachel is clearly referring to is the Kent HOSC vote on March 22nd. They do have the power to refer it back, and we at SONIK hope that they will. Some persuasion from the public will help, please sign and share –

  4. I am still at a loss to see how people from Thanet will ever be able to get to Ashford with lorries parked on the M20, and up in Manston. Is there absolutely no coordination between government departments and always to the detriment to the people of Thanet!

  5. This issue is cross-party, whoever people vote for. QEQM MUST be saved! The population of Thanet and East Kent MUST be taken into consideration. The time to wait for an ambulance and then travel to Ashford’s William Harvey Hospital MUST be looked at urgently! At least one specialised stroke unit MUST be in East Kent. Back to the drawing board. Either upgrade the present stroke unit at QEQM to make QEQM one of the 3 units, or have QEQM as a 4th specialist stroke unit.

  6. If QEQM can’t attract staff the obvious question is ‘what has been done to alleviate that situation?’ Tackle that problem then see how it all works out instead of saying ‘we can’t staff it so we will make Thanet residents travel to an area where we can attract staff to work for us’.

    • There IS a problem attracting staff to Thanet, even to Ashford. This is due to the national lack of medical staff at all levels. So each area is almost poaching staff from other areas to keep going themselves.

      Of course, being in the EU, we can make new efforts to attract more trained staff from nearby countries as well. Oh,wait………..

      • Keefogs you have views on everything don’t you? Shame you don’t have the courage of your convictions to publish your real name instead of some stupid pseudonym that could be straight from the Muppets!

        • Rachel Jones also states that there will be dozens more staff employed when the three HASUs are established If one of the reasons stated for Margate to close is because of difficulty recruiting staff, where will these dozens of other staff come from.? Already stroke nurses and physiotherapists have refused to move to Ashford from Margate, indicating that the extra staff are unlikely to be recruited locally as people don’t want their lives turned upside down

  7. Please sign SONIK’s petition, write to the HOSC councillors (instructions on SONIK’s website and facebook page), and come along to our public meeting in Ramsgate Town Centre on Thurs 28th March at 7pm. We’ll be giving an update on what’s happening in the fight to stop our stroke unit being closed, and there will be a discussion on next steps. Broads Street Hall, 3a Broad St, Ramsgate. . If you are wondering what the arguments against the stroke plans are, please read this document created by SONIK:

  8. Medway have achieved what our two MPs have been completely unwilling to push for. People in Thanet have been treated disgracefully by its elected representatives on this important issue. Well done Medway for referring this dangerous plan back to the Secretary of State. The sustained campaign by SONiK has raised public awareness of the stroke plans, and put pressure on those in authority to act in the best interests of people in Thanet. Well done SONiK. Shame on our MPs. Shame on Paul Messenger for scuppering the county hall vote to refer the plans back.

  9. Huge congratulations to SONIK and Medway campaigners who have been fighting tirelessly to expose the flawed thinking, risk to patients and bias of the STP in pushing for these changes. Tory, UKIP and Thanet Independent members have now jumped on the bandwagon to save the stroke unit, a few weeks before local council elections. Coincidence? Suspect the ‘cross party’ group will disappear on 3rd May once the elections are over. Seems a likely eventuality given either their inaction in the past, or some who have actively opposed the stroke unit at QEQM.

  10. Outrageous that a Thanet Councillor failed to vote the right way and failed to vote at all. What is wrong with Paul Messenger that he failed to stand up for Thanet? All in line with Roger Gale and Craig Mackinlay too late to the party. Shocking neglect of Thanet yet again by our elected representatives who just don’t care about us. They want a cargo plane over our heads every 5 minutes and an hours drive to the nearest specialist stroke unit. Just what is going on here? Why is Thanet getting a kicking over and over and over again? Who will support us? Certainly not our elected reps. Thank god for the tourist regeneration they’re doing their best to kill off.

    Not enough staff is no excuse. How do you think remote and inaccessible or other neglected areas of the country recruit skilled staff? They advertise properly, they offer relocation and reward, they manage and respect their workforce communities and they grow their own. There is a medical school opening in Canterbury in less than 2 years, and you can already train to be a nurse in our county. If there is good quality work and a well managed organisation then people will come. I’m not making a comment on QEQM, I’m just making a comment that it is absurd to suggest we can’t recruit in Thanet.

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