Final day of Judicial Review over hyper-acute stroke unit plans for Kent and Medway

SONIK campaigners at the High Court Photo Carly Jeffrey

A judicial review being heard at the High Court challenging a decision to close acute stroke services in hospitals including Margate’s QEQM will end today (December 5).

Two groups, Save Our NHS in Thanet and Thanet Stroke Campaign, are fighting the decision made by a Joint Committee of Clinical Commissioning Groups’ (JCCCG) to remove acute services from six hospitals in favour of three specialised units for Kent and Medway.

The two cases have been heard together by the same judge although they are brought on behalf of separate claimants.

 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.

But SONIK and Thanet resident Marion Kepple, who is the claimant for the Thanet Stroke Campaign, have challenged that decision.

During the hearings issues raised included the time needed to reach the proposed hyper-acute units for areas such as Thanet where patients would have to travel to Ashford -claiming this conflicts with NICE (the National Institute for Clinical Excellence) guidelines which state that stroke patients must be seen ‘immediately’, and elsewhere ‘as soon as possible’.

The question over why QEQM Hospital was not deemed eligible for a hyper-acute stroke unit (HASU) has also been raised as has the issue of not including ways of reducing health inequalities as part of the decision-making process.

On the second day of the review Medway Council was represented, raising the issue that HASUs have the potential to benefit more deprived populations such as those in Thanet and Medway, but suggesting the current choice of sites would diminish that potential.

Professor Tony Rudd,National Clinical Director for Stroke in England, endorsed the Kent & Medway stroke review plans. Fenella Morris QC (for the health commissioners) said he had been involved’ in the assurance process for local plans. Today the parties involved are giving a ‘summing up’ of their cases.

A decision by Judge Judith Farbey is not expected until the new year.