SONIK’s Judicial Review with regard to the plans to close stroke units at QEQM, Medway and Pembury – it’s full steam ahead!
Thursday 18th April 2019
On Monday 15th April, SONIK (Save Our NHS in Kent) sent a legal letter to the Kent and Medway Stroke review CCGs which starts the firing gun for our judicial review which will challenge the decision to close QEQM’s stroke unit and result in all of Kent and Medway having just 3 acute stroke units where there are currently six. The NHS commissioners (known as ‘the JCCCG’ or the ‘CCGs’) will now have to respond to us by April 29th with their response. If they do not agree to rethink the plans or reconsult, then SONIK will proceed with the application for Judicial Review (which must be submitted prior to May 14th).
Save Our NHS in Kent have been working towards a judicial review for nearly a year and a half. We have always intended to take this step, and we have always made that clear. Preparations have been lengthy and detailed. To prevent stroke unit closures, our first line of defence is to campaign for KCC to ‘Refer It Back’, as it involves no legal costs and has achieved good results in other areas; but we will not lose our stroke unit, and we knew that a referral back to government and a JR might well be necessary in parallel. This has been discussed at numerous meetings, in social media posts and news articles.
As we have had nearly a year and a half to prepare, and researchers working on the review for the same length of time, this means we have a very strong position in terms of our grounds and our understanding of the full documentation base, as follows:
SONIK have studied and made analyses of the SSNAP data, PCBC and DMBC, impact assessments and the clinical studies used to claim that centralisation of stroke services will save lives. This information is currently with our solicitors, Leigh Day, who are specialists in Judicial Review cases, and won the Lewisham case.
We have also made hundreds of enquiries to the Kent & Medway STP throughout 2018 and 2019, resulting in a lengthy paper trail of responses that give far more detail than is available in the consultation documents. The SONIK members who have been immersed in this for a year and three months have been giving their full attention to this matter alone. That focus means that masses of relevant information has been acquired and is at the forefront of their minds; they know where the info is (amongst the vast amount of data produced by the STP) and how to use it.
SONIK took initial steps toward a judicial review in 2018 (on the basis of a failure to adequately consult the public) which resulted in the STP being more compliant with information requests for a period of time. SONIK made full use of that and are in receipt of letters from the STP in which they have admitted inaccuracies in their listening event presentations.
Members of SONIK attended and recorded 6 of the stroke ‘listening event’ public meetings plus the initial ‘meeting in public’ JCCCG meeting in January, which again has provided exceptionally useful information in relation to the review.
SONIK have counter arguments prepared for all of the CCGs’ lines of argument. SONIK has successfully rebutted each of the STP’s justifications for having only three HASUs in Kent and Medway and their justifications for closing QEQM’s stroke unit.
SONIK have strong relationships with NHS campaign groups across the country that have provided us with advice and support and will continue to do so. They will help us with fundraising as will Keep Our NHS Public and Health Campaigns Together, which SONIK is affiliated to. They are large national campaigns with a lot of reach. HCT organised the large NHS marches in London in recent years (in conjunction with the People’s Assembly).
SONIK have 2k followers on facebook and a 3k mailing list plus the support and goodwill of the community, who know us very well from our frequent TV appearances and our bi-weekly street stalls which have been held throughout Thanet for almost 2 years.
It may well be that there are three Judicial Reviews in regard to the stroke decision, reflective of the strength of feeling against the plans; Medway Council announced their intention some time ago. Our solicitors (Leigh Day) have invited the law firms representing both Thanet Stroke Campaign and Medway Council to work collaboratively in order to avoid duplication; this will rest on how different or similar the grounds for each case are. Filing one review as a combined whole may be more sensible, or it might be that grounds are sufficiently different that it is sensible to file more than one in order to cover all potential bases.
SONIK’s priority has always been to ensure high quality healthcare for all of Kent. Three hyper acute units are not enough, and QEQM needs a stroke unit, for geographic and demographic reasons. We will continue to push for four or more units, and we will continue to represent the people of Thanet to the best of our ability.