A Ramsgate woman’s bid to prevent the closure of the acute stroke unit in Thanet is being taken to the High Court.
Marion Keppel and the Thanet Stroke Campaign are fighting a decision made by a Joint Committee of Clinical Commissioning Groups’ (JCCCG) to close the acute stroke units, including at Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital (QEQM), to be replaced by a ‘hyper acute stroke unit’ in Ashford, which is more than an hour away from the Thanet.
The decision led Marion and supporters to instruct Irwin Mitchell’s Public Law and Human Rights team to investigate the situation. Last month, lawyers applied for a judicial review challenging the legality of the decision.
The case will be heard in the High Court, in the autumn.
Alex Rook, specialist Public Law expert at Irwin Mitchell’s London office, said: “Marion and fellow campaigners expressed genuine concerns that the decision to close the stroke unit at Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital had been reached unlawfully and unfairly, without a thorough consultation considering the views of the local residents.
“There are a number of factors regarding this move that have worried Marion, most importantly being the implications it could have on the local community and the health of the people, especially those requiring urgent care having to travel over an hour for treatment.
“We have submitted to the court on Marion’s behalf that the JCCCG’s did not lawfully consult with local people, nor did they properly understand the implications of this decision when it was taken.
“We welcome the High Court’s decision to hear Marion’s case and will continue to support Marion throughout the process.”
Marion lives a 10 minute drive from the QEQM. She said: “I attend hospital regularly and have no doubt that the closure of the stroke unit in Margate will have a devastating effect on me and many others.
“It is a vital service and having the nearest stroke unit located more than an hour away is simply unacceptable.
“Our case being taken to the High Court is great news and hopefully this will ultimately lead to the decision being reconsidered.”
Cllr Karen Constantine, who sits on the Kent HOSC Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee and is part of the Thanet Stroke Campaign, added ‘It’s so daunting for an individual to tackle a huge issue and important like this. I’m so proud and inspired by Marion who has taken on the enormous task which would benefit thousands of Thanet residents and show the NHS our community will not be silent when vital services are removed. I will continue to fully support her.’
Campaign group Save Our NHS In Kent (SONIK) has also hit their fundraising target of £15,000 to pay for a Judicial Review process.
They will be speaking at Thanet council next month and are calling on members of the public to come and support them at the meeting on Thursday 5 September at 7pm.
A decision on the location for three hyper-acute stroke units (HASUs) across Kent & Medway was agreed by the Joint Committee of Clinical Commissioning Groups (JCCCG) in February.
The HASUs will be at Darent Valley Hospital, Maidstone Hospital and William Harvey Hospital. Acute services at Margate’s QEQM Hospital will be removed with Thanet patients needing to travel to Ashford for acute services.
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.
The consultants should drive from Ramsgate to Ashford on a busy day when there are road closures after waiting for a few minutes to be assessed. The government spent a lot of money on the F.A.S.T. advertising. For us living in Ramsgate the “T” is so important as it only takes an accident on the way for a life to end.
Good news for Marion Keppel, the people of Thanet, the Thanet Stroke Campaign and all the unseen work by Cllr Constantine and supporters.Let’s hope this first stage will lead eventually to something positive for our NHS healthcare.