Health campaigners call on government minister to ‘save’ acute stroke units in Kent & Medway

Sonik campaigners at a previous health protest

More than 1,000 people in east Kent have signed a petition calling on health and care minister Matt Hancock to set aside plans to remove acute stroke services from some hospitals in Kent and Medway. The petition, launched by the campaign group Save Our NHS In Kent (SONIK), claims the lives of local people are now “in the minister’s hands.”

Dr Coral Jones of Save Our NHS In Kent (SONIK) said: “We’d hardly launched the petition and we had almost 600 signatures. This shows how strongly people feel about the issue.”

Dr Jones, a GP, added: “We are appealing to Mr Hancock to fulfil the promise he made last November that the government would invest more money in the hospitals of Kent. We are calling on him to spend more on better care for patients in East Kent, less on managers’ salaries, management consultants and reorganisations.”

 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 2019.

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 instead.

Dr Jones said: “These plans will mean fewer Kent hospitals being able to treat stroke patients, with many people having to travel more than an hour for an emergency treatment. That will result in more deaths and more disabilities.”

However, the Kent and Medway CCG says the plans will mean “the implementation of evidenced-based hyper acute stroke units, which will in turn reduce death and disability from stroke.”

Among other things the SONIK petition asks Matt Hancock to:

Bring the stroke unit back to Margate’s QEQM hospital
Ensure all seven district general hospitals in Kent and Medway — including Margate, Canterbury and Ashford — can be reached for acute care for stroke within 30 minutes, as they can in London
Invest in better pay, conditions and, most importantly, recruitment incentives for NHS staff.

Dr Jones said: “If the current plans for stroke services in this area go through it will be we patients who will suffer. Our lives are in Matt Hancock’s hands. Anyone who wants acceptable standards of emergency care in our hospitals should sign this petition.”

SONIK spokesperson Carly Jeffrey

Carly Jeffrey, also of SONIK, added “Very few people seem to be aware that there is one stage of the consultation process left. The Health Secretary Matt Hancock still has the option to save our stroke units. He’s been sitting on a report from the IRP (Independent Reconfiguration Panel) since late 2019.

“He is duty bound to act on that report, and he must make a decision based on the merits of the Kent stroke plans. His verdict can override any decisions made by local NHS bosses. So it’s not a done deal unless Hancock seals the deal.”

A bid to appeal against a ruling to reject a Judicial Review on changes to stroke services in Kent and Medway was refused in August.

The SONIK Stroke Report can be accessed here:

The petition can be accessed here:

Find out more about the CCG stroke review plan at


  1. I believe that EVERYONE involved in the decision on an East Kent stroke unit should come to Thanet and then drive to Ashford during normal day time traffic. Maybe then they will see how long it takes. And that doesn’t take into account how long it would take for an ambulance to arrive to collect them and commence the journey! Then they will be in more of a position to make decisions based on facts and not just numbers on a spreadsheet!.

  2. Please keep sharing and signing everyone, let your neigbors and coworkers know about it, email people who aren’t on social media. This is going to be a tricky decision for Matt Hancock to make, as the plans were initiated by his own party. We have to make him and those who govern us understand that we won’t stand for our crucial hospital services being cut. Acute stroke care is no necessary, and it has to be reasonably local. Ashford is ridiculously far away. Thanet has such poor road links to the outside, and it’s a densely populated area with deprivation which leads to porer health than average, and greater risk of strokes. This really is the last push to save our stroke unit, so make sure you get on board and push hard for signatures. Writing to Matt Hancock is also a good idea.

  3. If our stroke unit closes it will have devastating consequences for the people of Thanet. This isn’t a done deal yet. Matt Hancock is still to make his decision. Help to try and persuade him by signing the petition, sharing it around, and encouraging people you know to sign.

  4. The people making these decisions on our behalf really need to try the journey between Thanet and Ashford facing our stroke patients – given that the current advice for stroke patients is for speedy treatment is that REALLY the best solution for us? We simply cannot afford to have these cuts made. Lives will be lost unnecessarily.

  5. I drove past the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford last Friday, mid-morning, light traffic – probably a bit less than usual because of people still working from home – reasonable weather, on my way home to Broadstairs, where I live. I avoided the M20 because operation Stack had been in operation until earlier in the day and there were possible hold-ups. It took an hour and five minutes. You probably couldn’t do it quicker without breaking the speed limits. But I wasn’t in an ambulance with the sirens on, the only difference, and in fact an ambulance passed me on the outskirts of Ashford and I had to pull over to let it pass. This was the only hold-up. It’s too far from Thanet!! But we are still awaiting the outcome of the other judicial review on the stroke unit, so it may not yet be all over.

  6. Thank you to all those who are trying to save Thanet’s stroke unit. Ashford is too far for a stroke victim to have to travel to. I shall write to Matt Hancock and will continue to share the petition. The people of Thanet and the surrounding areas deserve a good standard of healthcare.

  7. And all our two MPs seem to care about is the failed airport or bringing unwanted statues to Thanet.

    Shame on both of them for not going in hard on this. It should be number 1 priority.

  8. It isn’t just stroke sufferers who will be at risk if they have to be treated at the William Harvey in Ashford, its also visitors who will not be able to visit! How will visitors get there from Thanet, if they don’t drive, and don’t have a car? Its virtually impossible by public transport! Over 30 years ago my father had a stroke, and no one in the family could get to see him, and our mother easily because they lived in Bromley, and we kids all lived elsewhere. The solution was to turn my sisters garage, and existing extension into a studio Garden Flat, which we did, and although mum and dad were reluctant we eventually moved them to my sisters, ironically only a couple of miles from the William Harvey! But at least we could visit them regularly, and more easily. Dad did need to have further treatment in hospital, mainly towards the end of his life, and the family were able to visit daily, sometimes more than once a day. So moving the stroke unit to Ashford would make it near impossible for family and friends to vist from Thanet, possibly a dying parent!

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