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