Save Our NHS in Kent granted permission for stroke service judicial review hearing

SONIK campaigners Photo Frank Leppard

A judicial review mounted by health campaign group Save Our NHS in Kent, (SONIK) over the decision to close acute stroke units at hospitals including Margate’s QEQM, will be heard on the first available court dates from September.

Jon Flaig SONIK chair, said: “This is good news and is down to a great community effort.
Ordinary people from across the county raised the £15000 we needed to contribute to the claimant’s legal aid and start the judicial review process.”

Jon said the case was a vital one, of huge importance to Kent: “NHS bosses intend to close three out of the existing six hospital stroke units in Kent, which will greatly increase journey times for the most deprived populations. People in Thanet will be affected the worst.

“In Thanet ambulance journey times will go up by a staggering 300%, leaving residents a minimum of one hour away from urgent stroke care. Mortality and disability rates are bound to increase.”

“This is a definitely a Kent-wide problem. Medway, also a deprived area, will be badly affected, too, and the rest of Kent is likely to suffer due to the pressure on the whole system.”

Campaigners share their message Photo Carly Jeffrey

A key part of SONIK’s case is that Kent needs at least four hyper acute stroke units (HASUs), and one must be in Thanet, to ensure that health inequalities are not exacerbated and all patients reach the care they need within approximately 35 minutes.

 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.

Jon said: “Among other things we will argue that Kent’s NHS bosses did not properly consider the option of having more than three HASUs and did not consult properly with the public about their proposals. This is a battle we intend to win for the people of this area.”


Campaigner Carly Jeffrey

Carly Jeffrey, a SONIK spokesperson said: “The evidence suggests the decision to close stroke units in Medway, Thanet and Tunbridge Wells was a foregone conclusion. We believe that the public consultation was a box ticking exercise that was also designed to gloss over the fundamental flaws in the plans.”

“There are councillors and medical professionals that have backed up our assessment. This is a national plan that they want to roll out across even more areas – so what is happening in Kent, with these very long journey times, is essentially an experiment,”

A stroke services legal challenge has also been mounted by Marion Keppel, of the Thanet Stroke Campaign, and has been granted the go-ahead to be heard in the Autumn. It is supported by Cllr Karen Constantine.

Kent and Medway stroke review

Rachel Jones, Director for the Kent and Medway Stroke Review, previously said: “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..

“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.

“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.”


  1. Wonderful! Well done everyone at SONiK, we must not let the Bean Counters at the local Clinical Commissioning Group deny the people of Thanet a well staffed, and equipped QEQM Hospital. They couldn’t care less about us, especially pensioners, who can’t get to the Kent & Canterbury let alone the William Harvey for routine treatment by Public Transport! I had to pay £28.00 for a taxi from Ramsgate to the K & C, because public transport to Canterbury is not available for appointments when you need it, and I am not entitled to Patient Transport. The local volunteer car service costs very nearly the same, and besides a 45 minute journey could take the best part of several hours if several patients need to be picked up on the way, Duurh! I urge people to help fund SONiK, as Judicial Reviews and legal costs are crippling, but we need a good local hospital, and I mean local, how can visitors from Thanet get to see a relative or friend in the William Harvey in Ashford by public transport?

  2. Well done to the campaigners and those who could afford to contribute to the legal aid process for the court hearing judicial review.
    There should never be any areas of Britain that gets left out of essential services of the NHS. Everyone pays for these services in their National Insurance, it is just completely wrong to remove them out of an area and say you need to travel for an hour or more to receive life-saving services, no matter how good those services are when you arrive. We don’t need huge central units we need individual local area units to have better chances of survival.

  3. This is excellent news. The evidence on which these decisions were made was based on findings in London where travel times average 16 minutes. No patient in the study quoted in the STP papers travelled more than 30 minutes.
    This reckless decision to close the stroke unit was made while the ambulance service was in special measures. This has only now been lifted, after 3 1/2 years. When the decision to close the stroke unit was made, patients were promised rapid ambulance response times, clearly can’t happen with an ambulance trust in special measures.

  4. Well done Sonik .If these plans go ahead the effect on local people will be massive. Keep up the fight!

  5. The idea of a HASU is a good one, but placing them all within a 50 mile radius of each other so that the extremities of Kent are hardly served at all appears on the evidence to be irrational. Only those living Ashford, Maidstone and western Kent are likely to meet the 16 minute London study timings.Some elsewhere might make the 35 minutes timings, but East Kent and Medway, 1 hour +.Thanet 1 hour 16 minutes at best.
    Ms Jones wooden headed refusal to face facts and to study the woefully poor level of infrastructure in East Kent,lacks credibility.When quoting Northumberland as an example which has less than a third of the population and far less congestion and no international traffic to delay ambulances, it shows how flawed the commissioning body really is in its investigations.Judicial reviews are coming in as fast as flies on a cow pat and serve them right, for poor judgement, flawed reasoning and dreadful public engagement.

  6. SO the stroke unit at QEQM is currently rated D and E, that means poor. There is no stroke consultant there at the weekend. Also, patients are often kept waiting in A&E before being triaged and assessed for treatment thus countering it’s nearby location.
    Yes, Ashford is further but will be staffed 24/7 by specialist nurses and doctors. So much emphasis is being put on travel times whilst ignoring the delays in being assessed and treated at QEQM.
    I have made these points before and received a lot of abuse for holding my view and pointing out the facts.
    Personally I do not want to attend a poorly rated Stroke unit, nor an A&E which was next to bottom out of the whole country.
    QEQM has many faults and SONIK should stop trying to promote it as an excellent hospital.
    It has been in special measures, currently rated as needing improvement and Children’s Services rated inadequate.

    • That’s a reason to question why this has happened and work for improvement – not to criticise and lobby for going to Ashford! SONIK wants three excellent hospitals – at least- and acknowledges that is an aspiration at the moment rather than a reality!

      • I’m not sure whether you comment is directed at me but it probably is as I’ve not fully supported SONIK’s position.
        I am not lobbying for going to Ashford but I do want people to be able to benefit from a facility with the best up to date treatments and diagnostic techniques.
        There are serious problems at QEQM which have existed for a while and it is simply not possible to have specialist centres in all locations.

        • No person with a suspected stroke waits in A&E. The ambulance rings ahead and takes patients immediately to the back of QEQM where there is an entrance to the stroke unit. We have had many people with stroke speak to sonik over the past two years. And NO ONE has said there is a shortage of
          staff or were left untreated for hours. My relative was admitted on a late Sunday morning to QEQM- seen immediately by register, scanned and treated within the hour. This was Sunday

          • I’m pleased your relative received such good care at the weekend.

            However, the stroke unit is very poorly rated.

            It still doesn’t have all the equipment a HASU would have.

  7. That’s a reason to question why this has happened and work for improvement – not to criticise and lobby for going to Ashford! SONIK wants three excellent hospitals – at least- and acknowledges that is an aspiration at the moment rather than a reality!

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