‘Green shoots of recovery’ over ambulance wait times for Kent stroke patients

South East Coast Ambulance Service (image Secamb)

By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan

A south east ambulance boss says there are “green shoots of recovery” over wait times for stroke patients being transported to Kent hospitals.

Ray Savage, South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) strategy and partnerships manager, says the response time for Kent residents is improving.

It comes amid concerns over ambulance arrival delays. Targets have been set at 18 minutes, but average wait times for patients, suffering from a potential stroke, was 34 minutes in October 2021 and 26 minutes in January 2022.

This is due to “unprecedented demand” for paramedics amid the pandemic and extra “challenges” of staff shortages and ambulance hand over delays, according to the Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

However, health chiefs say radical improvements are being made, including greater emphasis on remote diagnosis of patients and more active input from stroke doctors.

Mr Savage said: “We are seeing green shoots of recovery from what was a difficult position in 2021 and throughout 2020.”

He added: “We are in a place where we are starting to see some recovery, which is encouraging.

“As we are coming out of this latest Covid wave, I am sure that will continue.”

His comments were made in front of a panel of county councillors at County Hall in Maidstone on Wednesday (January 26).

KCC’s health scrutiny committee was told about the transition to hyper acute stroke units, with the number of stroke units in Kent halving from six to three.

Last November Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced three hyper acute stroke units (HASUs) will be created in Kent and Medway.

They will be based at Maidstone Hospital, Darent Valley in Dartford and Ashford’s William Harvey over the next two years.

Work has already started on their reconfiguration as stroke services will be lost at Medway Maritime Hospital, QEQM in Margate and Tunbridge Wells Hospital.

Rachel Jones, executive director for strategy and population health at Kent and Medway CCG, said “We have made some significant improvements.

“The patients of Kent and Medway are now getting much better stroke services than they were two years ago.”

However, concerns have been raised over high travel times and staffing levels.

Ramsgate county councillor Karen Constantine (Lab) said the “devil will be in the detail” over the stroke unit reconfiguration.

She said: “In Thanet, we feel like we are being thrown to the wolves. There is incredible worry still of the stroke unit being relocated to William Harvey.”

However, Romney Marsh county councillor Tony Hills (Con) gave a more optimistic outlook.

He said: “Since the pandemic, I have not had one complaint about ambulance journey times in my area. I think 26 minutes is pretty good.”

Cllr Paul Bartlett (Con), who is KCC’s health scrutiny chair, said it was “difficult” to drawn any conclusions over the stroke unit changes at such an early stage.

New hyper acute stroke units are expected to go live in Darent Valley and Maidstone hospitals by mid-2023.

Extensive estate work is required at the William Harvey in Ashford and will take longer to deliver. This is hoped to be completed by late 2023.


  1. It is coming up to spring and the grass is growing, Spring bulbs are beginning to show their heads so yes I can see green shoots….Only in the garden. Who in Thanet has put the William Harvey (WH) Hospital post code into their Sat Nav, followed the route, checked the milage and expected time of arrival.

    I suggest that you look at it next time you have to go to Ashford for Physio or have a 5 minute face to face appointment or have to go for a 30sec skin treatment. Do I really need to go to WH only to be told “We could have dealt with this over the phone”.

    Heaven help us if Canterbury Hospital or some of the services are down graded and only dealt with at the WH.

    What about the elderly who do not drive, do not have family to take them or do not fall under the category for patient transport.

    We can all make favourable reports when we wish to blow our own trumpets. Look at the realities for goodness sake. Lets all purchase flying cars or a helicopter.

  2. So, where are suspected stroke patients from Thanet being taken in the ambulances since they closed the unit at the QEQM and the William Harvey won’t be ready for almost two years yet? How are they seeing Green Shoots of Recovery? Surely, it would have been better to keep the unit open at QEQM or Canterbury until Ashford is ready, even after to be fair!

  3. Not a good geographical representation on this committee, only one east Kent rep (Ramsgate) – there are two Ashford and three Tonbridge Wells – so I’m not sure how it can apply ‘scrutiny’ in a balanced way.
    We know the ambulance service has not been good enough, did anyone ask about patient outcomes? Have there been more deaths? More serious cases caused by delays getting to hospital? Reduced/improved quality of life for survivors? Where are the clinicians and proper clinical evidence in all of this?

  4. Why don’t people wake up and realise that creating a Unitary Authority for East Kent would take away health decisions from KCC and we could decide our own health services.

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