A petition has been launched protesting at the planned removal of stroke services from QEQM Hospital in Margate.
The petition was discussed at a meeting in Broadstairs yesterday (January 27) hosted by NHS campaigners.
Hundreds turned out for the Defend Our NHS In Kent conference which had speakers including Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield and doctor-activist Dr Bob Gill as well as Ramsgate councillor Karen Constantine.
Dr Richard Symonds and Jane Hetherington, both mental health experts, also spoke passionately about Thanet’s mental health service provision and what must be done to improve it.
During the meeting it was resolved to fight plans to centralise stroke services in Kent and Medway to three hyper-acute units.
Hyper acute unit proposal
Currently general stroke services are provided in all the hospitals across Kent and Medway, including the QEQM, but there are no specialist hyper acute units. NHS bosses in the region say larger, specialist units in other parts of the country have been shown to improve outcomes for people who have had a stroke.
A proposed shortlist of possible options for 3 hyper acute units has now been created which reveals the unit in east Kent will almost certainly be based at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford. This will mean the end of stroke services at QEQM. Services at Canterbury hospital were put ‘on hold’ last April.
‘Too far away’
Labour’s Karen Constantine said: “I’m extremely concerned that many local people don’t understand that stroke service and aftercare, currently offered locally at QEQM, is being moved to the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford.
“This is simply too far away and will undoubtedly result in preventable deaths and injury.
“We know that only 50% of people who call for an ambulance when they are having a stroke will be seen by paramedics within 18 minutes. The other 50% of people wait even longer for an ambulance. We know it’s an hour from Thanet to Ashford in ‘normal traffic’. It could take 1 hour and 45 minutes to get from Thanet to the William Harvey. This is far too long.
“This vital lifesaving service needs to be delivered locally at QEQM. The current provision is poor, but this should not be used as a reason to downgrade the service. The CCG need to take urgent action to take every necessary step to upgrade our local stroke service.
“Ninety-five per cent of the population across England live within one hour of a stroke service. Why should Thanet be amongst the 5% that does not? Why make this change which will make the current situation even worse in an area that already has the poorest health outcomes in Kent? “
Kent and Medway NHS Trusts say they will spend up to £40million on the scheme for building work and equipment at the hospitals and recruiting more staff across the county.
They say the investment will eventually reduce costs because patients will be diagnosed and treated faster, needing less care after they leave hospital and suffering less disability. They say the plan will also reduce deaths with each option allowing at least 98 per cent of people in Kent and Medway to access a hyper acute stroke unit by ambulance within an hour.
People whose stroke is caused by a blood clot need to have clot-busting treatment, known as thrombolysis, within two hours of calling 999. Currently, only half of people in Kent and Medway who need this treatment get it within two hours because specialist staff are spread across many sites.
Each of the proposed hyper acute sites will have an acute stroke unit to give patients care after the first 72 hours until they are ready to leave hospital and a clinic for assessing and treating transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs or mini strokes).
There will be a full public consultation on the proposals following further assessment of the proposed shortlist and final approval. If approved the consultation will take place in February.
A demonstration organised by Save Our NHS Kent is being held at the QEQM main gates (Ramsgate Road) next Saturday (February 3) from noon until 2pm. Contact Cllr Constantine for details at firstname.lastname@example.org