“WE DEMAND THE TRUTH”

STROKE CAMPAIGNERS ACCUSE HEALTH OFFICIALS OF USING PRIVATE MEETING TO INTERFERE WITH COUNCIL VOTE

Campaigners are accusing NHS officials of using a private, unminuted meeting with county councillors to force through plans to slash stroke services in Kent.

The campaign group Save Our NHS in Kent (SONIK) group believe that the officials used the meeting with Kent County Councillors in June to influence the way they voted on a the crucial health and overview scrutiny committee.

The committee had the power to refer back NHS plans to halve stroke services in Kent to the secretary of state for health, but in the end voted by just two votes to let the plans go forward.

Now a freedom of information request submitted by SONIK has revealed that the NHS bosses held aprivate meeting at which no minutes were taken with eight of the committee members before they voted.

Carly Jeffrey of SONIK said: “In our opinion, the vote was compromised by this private meeting thatthe public were excluded from. We have no idea what promises were made or what arguments were presented to the eight councillors who attended, but we do know that it changed the minds of at least two of them, from being against the stroke plans to being in favour.”

She added: “The votes of those two councillors became the deciding votes, as the committee voted 7 to 5 in favour of the stroke plans going ahead. It appears that health bosses sought to interfere with the democratic process and may have misled and applied pressure on councillors in order to get the outcome they required.

“We demand to know what happened at that meeting. It’s a question of basic democracy.” SONIK was recently granted a judicial review of the NHS bosses decision to cut and reorganise stroke services in Kent.

The changes will mean increased journey times for stroke sufferers in the most deprived parts of Kent, with people in Thanet and the Medway being particularly badly affected, campaigners claim.

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