Thanet residents have ‘lost confidence’ in NHS over stroke units

Campaigners from Save Our NHS in Kent

By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan

The NHS has been criticised for “losing the confidence” of Thanet residents over the planned closure of the district’s stroke unit.

Outraged Thanet councillors yesterday slammed a decision to overhaul stroke services in Kent, which would see the unit closed at Margate’s QEQM and open at Ashford’s William Harvey Hospital in 2022.

Long-standing plans are in place to open three hyper acute stroke units (HASUs) in Ashford, Maidstone and Dartford after several judicial reviews heard at the High Court were rejected earlier this year.

Thanet District Council’s main opposition leader Lesley Game (Con), who is a member of KCC’s scrutiny committee, said: “There is disappointment throughout the whole of Thanet.

“I think, however hard the NHS and your team try, you will never get the confidence back from the people of Thanet.”

Her comments came during a virtual meeting of KCC’s health scrutiny committee where councillors were told that shortages of specialist staff in stroke units were causing widespread problems in Kent amid uncertainty around stroke service placements.

In Thanet, the fight continues in challenging a stroke unit review for Kent and Medway despite defeats at court.

Due to Covid, stroke services at Margate’s QEQM and Ashford’s William Harvey have been temporarily transferred to Canterbury to “protect” most vulnerable patients contracting coronavirus in these hospitals.

Supporters say the new stroke units will “improve health care” while opponents say that delays to treatment could be “life-threatening” for those in Thanet travelling around 35 miles to Ashford.

Ramsgate county councillor Karen Constantine (Lab) said: “The concerns for potential life-threatening delays from Thanet across to Ashford still remain. There is little confidence amongst the general community.

“People cannot believe this is being done to them when there is such an outcry.”

She added: “With the prospect of Brexit and what that might do to our roads and now Covid, none of this is comfort for us.

“There has to be an explanation and plan that goes back to the people of Thanet that clears up the concerns they have.”

Rachel Jones, who is Kent and Medway CCG’s director of acute services and partnerships, said she “understands” the anxieties of people in Thanet.

She said: “We are going to have to work hand in hand with the communities most worried.

“Because no matter what I say to you about all the evidence, the data, the journey times and implementations in other parts of the country that show that we save lives not lose them, even with longer journey times, people are not going to accept that and I understand why they wouldn’t. All I can say is I think it will, but the proof will be in the delivery.”

She proposed to work with East Kent residents and campaigners such as Save Our NHS in Kent and Thanet Stroke Campaign on a “daily” basis.

On the decision, Ashford county councillor Paul Bartlett (Con) said that “we need to move on” as discussions have been taking place around HASUs since 2014.

KCC’s health scrutiny chairman said: “Our failure to implement HASUs becomes a dereliction of duty.”

However, he has requested a report be published to councillors on how the NHS will “rebuild trust” with residents in Thanet at a future public meeting.

A final decision will be made by the Health Secretary Matt Hancock following a referral.


  1. A good example, I attended A@E with a severe hernia after 3hours and seeing a doctor , consultant,and a surgeon I was told that it needed seeing too ,2 weeks later I had what i thought was a pre op phone call only to be asked what the problem was when I explained I was told they did not have any records of my visit and would have to be put on a waiting list,this may take up to 18 weeks.

  2. We have been lied to, being told it only takes less than a hour to get to Ashford hospital by road. Lied to that our views would be listened to. A local councillor physically threatened at a nhs public meeting. Told Ashford is part of east kent while it has tn postcode and is mid Kent. Lies and more lies . Thanet deserves better

    • Thank you Barry. I fully support your comments!
      My wife had a stroke, fortunately she was assessed and taken to QEQM (from Broadstairs) and treated, all within the “Golden Hour” that has been the ‘standard’ for years!
      Are the NHS telling us that the Golden Hour has now been increased? It is impossible for an ambulance to be called, attend, assess the casualty/patient, travel to Ashford (Even on ‘blues and twos’) and receive appropriate treatment in the Golden Hour. Ridiculous! Why have the acute units in the same general region and leave East Kent unwatered for!

  3. Interesting Rachel Jones proposes to speak to Sonik and Thanet Stroke Campaign ‘on a daily basis’. Can we hold her to that?

    • Jenny, I don’t have confidence in this! The ‘leaders’ cannot see the issue that is staring them in the face!
      The situation is not helped but judges that are out of touch with reality.

  4. if this happened where are the ambulances coming from and of course paramedics to drive them, there is a major delay now getting an ambulance,and the time is 2 hours or more when they are busy. I just hope no one loses thier lives over this change

  5. It’s a shame SONIK weren’t asked for comment. The problem with the angle of this article is that it doesn’t even mention the fact that the future of these stroke units is now entirely down to a decision by Matt Hancock. Cllr Game may well lament (in public) that it is a terrible decision, but it is her party that is doing this. Cllr Lesley Game is pointing the finger at Rachel Jones, but she’s the monkey not the organ grinder. The control lies with the government, and specifically with the Health Secretary Matt Hancock. In the recent election, the Conservatives promised to grow the NHS. They did not say ‘we will cut your hospital services, we will close your A&Es, maternity and stroke care, and move them to locations that are difficult to reach for the most densely populated and deprived areas’, did they? So they need to step up and cancel these cuts. Cllr Game, stop trying to create an appearance of opposition to the cuts; this is not a genuine effort to reverse the closure plans – it’s just lip service. For those that want to do something, sign this petition and send it to all your friends, colleagues, neighbors, families:

    • Not forgetting the impact that the 7,000 signatures that were collected by Labour Party members and sent to Jeremy Hunt, not so long ago. The (sad) truth is we weren’t listened to then and we are (highly) unlikely to be heard on now. The most positive thing that Thanet residents can do is to return an increased number of County Councillors to Kent County Councillor next May. That is the most powerful way of showing the dominating Conservatives that we need to be listened too. Say no to more NHS cuts by voting Labour in May. Please take your health services into account when voting.

      • Come on Karen. Duties to report environmental toxic hazards to CCG to inform local risk and NHS planning. TDC and KCC when have they ever comply ?

        You and SONIK concealed this unlawfulness of CCG planning from the High Court.

        TDC, Constantine and SONIK … crocodile tears. But you all caused harm to Thanet health and Thanet healthcare.

  6. Reassuring that Rachel Jones will consult with SONIK on a daily basis. I’ve seen their in depth research so she should soon be convinced that Margate needs a stroke unit

    • The best argument is to report risks to health in Thanet from environment and water supply. This creates stroke risk and maternity tragedy risk. That is health inequality which Secretary of State has a legal duty to address.

      SONIK most TDC Cllrs and Karen Constantine are best ignored.

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