County council health panel will not refer hyper-acute stroke unit decision back to government

Campaigners appealing for a decision to refer the stroke plans back to government

The decision to implement three hyper-acute stroke units across the region, closing current acute services at hospitals including Margate’s QEQM, will not be referred back to the government by Kent County Councillors.

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.

A meeting today (May 21) of the county council health overview and scrutiny committee was expected to make the vote following an update on the plans from the Kent and Medway NHS.

Speeches urging the decision be refered back were made by Thanet councillors Ros Binks, Lesley Game and Karen Constantine.

But a motion was first put forward proposing to approve the stroke review decision and this was passed by 7 votes to 6. Two committee members were absent from the meeting.

Councillors backing the NHS stroke review were Paul Bartlett (Con, Ashford); Ken Pugh (Con, Sheppey); Diane Marsh (Con, Gravesend); Dan Daley (Lib Dem, Maidstone); Cllr Sarah Hamilton (Con, Tunbridge Wells); Cllr Sue Chandler (Con, Dover) and Cllr Pauline Beresford (Con, Dover).

Against the proposals were Karen Constantine (Lab, Thanet); Peter Lake (Con, Sevenoaks); Ros Binks (Con, Thanet); Derek Mortimer (Lib Dem, Maidstone); Lesley Game (Con, Thanet); Andrew Bowles (Con, Swale).

That meant a vote on referring back to the Secretary of State for Health could not then be taken.

Health campaigners are challenging both the number of stroke units NHS bosses are proposing and their location. Save Our NHS in Kent (SONIK) say present plans are totally unsatisfactory and they want four hyper acute stroke units at good locations across the county including in Thanet.

Both SONIK and Thanet Stroke Campaign, headed by county councillor Karen Constantine, have launched legal action in the High Court to challenge how the decision was made.

SONIK say is will be the lead on the Judicial Review.

Kent and Medway stroke consultants say larger, specialist units in other parts of the country have been shown to improve outcomes for people who have had a stroke.

Thanet district councillor and SONIK campaigner Helen Whitehead said: “”I am glad that six representatives saw how badly certain areas including Thanet stand to be affected by these plans, but thoroughly disappointed in the way this motion was presented, and in the overall decision of the HOSC to disadvantage those in areas of high need.

“SONIK will continue to fight this decision through the judicial review, and I and SONiK will continue to hold our democratic procedures to account throughout this process.”

Cllr Constantine, who was one of the six to vote against the backing of the hyper-acute unit proposal, said she was “extremely dissatisfied and disappointed with the decision.”

She added: “After all this months of battling, rising awareness, fighting, lobbying, organising public meetings, street stalls, petitions and countless meetings our countless hours of effort have come to nought.

Cllr Constantine and judicial review client Marion Keppel

“Residents of Thanet have been done a very great disservice today. QEQM should have been properly considered as a location for a HASU. We were told that there weren’t enough stroke cases in Thanet to meet the ‘competency threshold’. Information that I have pushed for and have received recently scotches this.”

The figures Cllr Constantine received show Thanet has an average of 260 stroke cases per year compared with 135 in Herne Bay and 82 for Canterbury and the villages.

Rachel Jones, Director for the Kent and Medway Stroke Review, said: “We are pleased the HOSC members, after considering the evidence very carefully and thoroughly, concluded that they would not stand in the way of improvements to urgent stroke services.

“There are currently no specialist hyper acute stroke units in Kent and Medway and, despite the tireless hard work and commitment of our staff, our local stroke services are not able consistently to provide the level of care people should be able to expect. Combining our staff and resources into three hyper acute units, able to run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, will allow us to deliver excellent care to stroke patients.

“I would like to thank the committee for the highly valuable support and challenge the members have provided throughout this process. Their insights, questions and the views they have shared from local people, have helped to ensure our plans are robust and well thought through. We will continue to work with the HOSC over the coming months to respond to the further issues they raised today, and to continue to seek their views on our implementation plans as they develop.

“The decision to establish three hyper acute stroke units in Kent and Medway is supported by local, regional and national specialists, including the four hospital trusts and the senior stroke consultants in Kent and Medway, who explained their reasons for this in a recent blog

“These specialists agree there is overwhelming evidence to show that the current under-performance of stroke services in Kent and Medway means more people are dying than would be expected, and people are being left with avoidable disability. This is wholly unacceptable and must change as a matter of urgency.

“While undertaking the review of urgent stroke services, the NHS in Kent and Medway considered the health and wellbeing of the entire population who use them. Factors taken into account included population growth, deprivation, travel times to potential hyper acute stroke units, and impact on specialist stroke staff.

“It is our very carefully considered view that the option approved – for hyper acute stroke units at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Maidstone Hospital, and William Harvey Hospital in Ashford – is the one that will best deliver the necessary improvements to care for stroke patients.”

18 Comments

  1. The evidence how dangerous this decision is for the inhabitants of Thanet is incontrovertible

  2. I’m just so cross about this decision. The people of Thanet have been put at a disadvantage. Thanks to local local residents we have raised funds and the wonderful Marion Keppel is the client in the Judicial Review. As the Labour councillor on that committee I will continue to scrutinise every single decision. Also every single outcome from this decision. The pressure is now on the CCG to “deliver”, to ensure no one falls through the gaps. Boy are there a lot of gaps!

    • It is much more than a disadvantage – it will result in a very serious health risk for the people of Thanet , which has such a high incidence of stroke cases as has been repeatedly outlined by Sonik – the travel time from Thanet to the William Harvey Hospital even in an ambulance with flashing lights is far too long

  3. Well, its obvious the KCC Conservative councillors couldn’t care less about the people of Thanet, so they should note this next time the KCC elections come up!

    • Could the Isle of Thanet News reveal the names of the two councillors who failed to attend this very important meeting?

    • Two of our Thanet Conservative county councillors did vote against this recommendation as well as Labour’s Cllr Constantine.

  4. Yet another exanple of treating Thanet as a poor relation of Maidstone.
    Perhaps we should campaign to be East kent unitary authority and make our own decisions.

    • An East Kent unitary authority is indeed worth looking into. Understandably Sussex has long been divided into two very different parts – why not Kent? Canterbury unfortunately was opposed to something like this

  5. So much emphasis has been put on the one hour travel time yet ignoring the benefits of a specialised unit.
    Of course we all want access to every specialised service on our doorstep but as there is not a bottomless pit of money people need to be realistic.
    I am pleased that we will have access to these specialist units in Kent.
    If we cannot attract enough GPs to Thanet is unlikely that we would be able to attract enough specialists.
    It is insulting to keep on insisting that all the medical experts are wrong and want to harm patients.

    • These cuts are driven by the government’s programme of underfunding abd privatisation. We are the 5th richest country in the world. If we can afford to give tax breaks to the very richest, if we can allow tax to remain uncollected on offshore funds, if we can afford royal weddings, then we can afford the NHS. There isno bottomless pit of money, but there us a substantial magic money tree that needs harvesting.

    • Dear Lady: it matters not how specialised the unit is, if when you eventually arrive you’ve suffered irreparable or fatal damage.

  6. Today Stroke services, tomorrow A&E then more services to go over time, there are a lot of us people who live on the Isle of Thanet know there is a land grab for the QEQM hospital site, if we let any of these services go elsewhere, it will be the end of the hospital as we know it.
    Rather than having named wards as we have now, we will have streets with those ward names on them.
    It is time Thanet District Council join forces with Medway council and refer the decision to Secretary of State for Health him for review.
    Kent County Council and its councillors have for a long time looked down on Thanet with distain, it is now time for an East Kent Unitary Authority to come in to force, as KCC looks after West Kent far more than us in East Kent, so it’s time to weigh up the balance in our favour here in Thanet.

  7. These cuts are driven by the government’s programme of underfunding abd privatisation. We are the 5th richest country in the world. If we can afford to give tax breaks to the very richest, if we can allow tax to remain uncollected on offshore funds, if we can afford royal weddings, then we can afford the NHS. There isno bottomless pit of money, but there us a substantial magic money tree that needs harvesting.

  8. One of the biggest problems is the government’s opposition to recruiting well qualified specialists from abroad, when there is a shortage of British specialists in key areas of the NHS
    Six Conservative councillors and one Liberal Democrat voted not to refer the decision on the stroke units back to the government

  9. Could the I of T news give us the names of those councillors who did NOT vote please? Should one infer that they were TIGS?

  10. Could the I of T news give us the names of those councillors who did NOT vote please? Should one infer that they were TIGS?
    This is not the same question as above

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