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.