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.”