Health campaigners urge Thanet council to take legal action over NHS acute stroke unit plan

Campaigner Carly Jeffrey with a message to Thanet council from SONIK

Health campaigners Save Our NHS in Kent are urging Thanet council to follow in the footsteps of Medway council and steps to mount a judicial review over 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.

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

SONIK says Thanet council, which last year registered that as a body it was ‘vehemently opposed’ to the stroke plans, must follow Medway’s lead to block the plans.

The group has written to council leader Bob Bayford asking him to consider two actions – one being a judicial review that would see the council taking the NHS commissioning groups to court over their decision and a second request  that the council commission an official report into the “omissions, inaccuracies and skewing of data in the materials presented to the JCCCG and on which that committee made its decision”.

Request for action

Medway council last night voted unanimously to refer the stroke plans back to the Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock. This action will delay implementation of the plans, and could, if successful, require the NHS planners to  rethink how they improve stroke services.

Thanet council does not have powers to refer back, but it could take legal action. Medway Council has set £50,000 aside for legal costs.

The email to Cllr Bayford states: “The removal of QEQM’s stroke unit and the likelihood that A&E and consultant-led maternity will also be removed to Canterbury or Ashford should be ringing alarm bells for the council.

“The hospital is (arguably) being prepped for closure, or for a major downgrade. This is our local hospital and we need it to remain in Thanet; it serves an elderly, deprived and vulnerable population that is cut off from other areas due to poor roads, and it employs 2,000 people.

“Thanet cannot afford not to have a hospital here. TDC must play a part in the efforts to block these plans, as the cost to Thanet in terms of additional health, social care and unemployment needs will ultimately fall on the council in the long term.”

Save Our NHS in Kent is also pressing Kent County Council to refer the stroke decision back to government. The meeting where Kent’s Scrutiny committee will decide on this is on March 22 and SONIK will be holding a protest outside County Hall on that day, as well as asking the public to sign this petition requesting KCC councillors vote to refer the plans back.

Following the decision by Medway council, 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.

“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.”


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.

Find the SONIK petition here


  1. It must be re-thought as in the present form voted for by those directors and professionals it will be a danger to those living a great distance away from a unit such as those residents in Thanet. How they have turned this around to say delays will lead to more deaths is insane and shows that this is really about saving money not lives. It’s not only disappointment by patients in Medway but Thanet also. We really need this taking back to Government as a bad decision.

  2. I can only agree that we must do everything in our power to keep stroke services(better ones, hopefully) in Thanet. For all our sakes!
    Though the idea of “taking this back to the government as a bad decision” may struggle a bit. After all, the Brexit decision has been taken back to this government and now it’s a bad decision made even worse!

    • Good point! However, when NHS plans referred back, the plans go to the Secretary of State, who then decides if it should go to Independent Review or not. If the case is strong, it’s difficult for the SoS to say no. Then it gets reviewed independently.

  3. We need to keep fighting to keep stroke services in Thanet.Having to go all the way to Ashford from Thanet is crazy.Roads can be gridlock, you need to get hospital help immediately,travelling 40 miles away could result in a needless lost of life.WE NEED A STROKE UNIT AT QEQM.Keep fighting.

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