NHS authorities in Kent and Medway are currently consulting the public about the establishment and location of three specialist stroke services. These are called hyper-acute stroke units (HASUs), which are open 24/7 and have available all the consultants and other specialist staff needed to treat people with strokes. We absolutely support the provision of HASUs – all the research is clear that that people have a better chance of survival and recovery if they are treated in such a unit. Our concern is the location of these units – none of the proposed options include either the Kent & Canterbury Hospital in Canterbury or the Queen Mary the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate. They all feature William Harvey in Ashford and other West Kent Hospitals.
K&C Hospital, once a centre of clinical excellence in the South East, has been progressively denuded of services. We lost the A&E over a decade ago, and last year cardiac, stroke and other acute services were transferred to Ashford and Margate. This was because of poor consultant recruitment and was said to be temporary; but these stroke proposals suggest the loss will be permanent.
We are also concerned that putting the HASU in Ashford will gradually attract more acute services away from Margate, particularly if the underfunding of the NHS continues.
The population to be served by these three stroke units includes people over the border in East Sussex and in the London Borough of Bexley (who must have access to London services). The proposed concentration of stroke units in the west of the County meets some needs, but will mean some of the most deprived communities in Kent will be furthest away from these specialist units.
We all know that travelling to the William Harvey can be a nightmare. This will be made even worse by problems with the ambulance service – latest figures show that in Thanet people have waited up to 3.5 hours for an ambulance. This plus the difficult roads will put vulnerable people at risk. Public transport to the WHH is also difficult, which will make it harder for families to support people affected by stroke.
We want these specialist stroke services, but they must be accessible to all. The growing communities of Canterbury, Thanet and the rest of the Kent Coast must have a stroke unit closer than Ashford.
The consultation lasts until 13 April – go to one of the consultation events and make your voice heard :
- 26 February, 6.30pm at Margate Football Club
- 1 March, 2.00pm at St Peters Church, Herne Bay
- 28 March, 6.30pm at Westgate Hall, Canterbury
Wincheap Labour dropped by Laurel House on Valentine’s Day morning to present a card and flowers to show their appreciation for local NHS mental health services. The card was signed by a large number of local Labour Party members, all of whom are thankful for the services provided by the NHS despite large shortfalls in funding provided by the current Conservative government.
“We want to make a gesture to show our appreciation of the services provided by our NHS” says Paul Todd, a seasoned organiser for Wincheap Labour. “Since the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition in 2010 there has been an ideologically driven agenda to slash the budgets no matter the human cost. After 7 years it is indisputable that Tory austerity has failed and our NHS struggles to meet the increasing demand for the services it provides. We appreciate the hard work that the NHS continues to do in these circumstances, especially in terms of mental health services where the cuts have hit even harder due to the increasing prevalence of mental health problems in society.”
In the UK one in four adults will experience a mental illness at some point each year. Around 75% of children and young people with mental health conditions are not receiving the treatment they need with the average wait for effective treatment being up to ten years. Despite these worrying statistics, there are 5,240 fewer mental health nurses today than there were in 2010 when the Conservatives came into power. In her maiden speech in the House of Commons in 2017, newly elected Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield described the NHS as “Britain’s sickest patient” highlighting the critical underfunding faced by our much loved National Health Service.
Izzy Burch, a local campaigner for Wincheap Labour, was one of the signatories of the card presented at Laurel House. “Our mental health services are so important, especially for young people” she says. “Young people studying at school, college and university, and those working in low paid jobs with few guaranteed hours and increasingly poor terms and conditions are bearing the brunt of the crisis in the provision of mental health services. High rents, low pay, constant assessment and cuts in grants for those studying are all factors in the huge amount of stress faced by young people which in turn leads to a higher incidence of mental health problems. The work our NHS is doing is fantastic but they need more resources to truly tackle the problems created by Tory austerity.”
The card and flowers were warmly received by Laurel House who provide mental health services across the district. Wincheap Labour took the opportunity this Valentine’s Day to express their love for our NHS but the campaign to save it continues. If you want to help the Canterbury Labour Party in our campaign to protect our NHS services make sure to look out for our latest leaflet and display the poster contained within.