Thanet needs a Specialist Stroke unit

Stroke victims in Thanet, it’s claimed, will have less chance of surviving if services are reorganised the way medical bosses are proposing.

Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt – a parliamentary researcher based in Thanet who writes about health policy – said: “The new proposals will mean stroke victims  travelling to Ashford — a journey of one and a half hours or more which is more than the hour most authorities say is vital to the hopes of a patient’s survival.”

Rebecca also argues that the proposals are failing to take into account the “health inequalities” in Thanet. She said: “Under the provisions of the Health and Social Care Act (2012), health commissioners have a statutory duty to reduce health inequalities. For that reason rather than make Thanet residents make dangerously long journeys, they should consider Thanet as a possible site for a new hyper acute stroke unit (HASU).

“For the same reason Thanet residents should definitely be consulted in the plans for any new stroke units in this area.”

The consultation phase to discuss options for acute stroke services in Kent and Medway began on February 1. Clinical commissioning groups in the area are proposing the creation of three HASUs across the region and the loss of stroke services from other hospitals, claiming that the status quo is leading to unnecessary deaths.

William Harvey Hospital is the only site in East Kent being considered for one of the HASUs.

Rebecca said: “Kent and Canterbury Hospital was not shortlisted on the basis that it lacks acute and critical care. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital (QEQM) at Margate has also been excluded from consideration on the basis that there would not be enough staff to supply both Ashford and Margate.”

Rebecca added: “But the presence of an HASU attracts staff to an area. Combined with the influx of professionals to Thanet from London and elsewhere, I do not accept that staffing can be used as a pretext to discriminate against Thanet.”

Rebecca also argues that poverty in Thanet means that the area is more on need of stroke services. She said: “There is ample evidence showing a direct relationship between the likelihood of stroke and level of deprivation. Thanet suffers from the worst deprivation in the county, with 50,000 people living in the most deprived conditions and having a life expectancy of 18 years fewer than their more affluent neighbours.  Thanet needs better, quicker services for its stroke patients not worse as is likely under these proposals.”

A spokesperson for the Save Our NHS In Kent said: “We are calling for the best possible service for stroke patients across Kent. Why not have hyper active stroke units both in Ashford and in Thanet? We should have services where there is patient need. We suspect that behind these proposals there are financial considerations — which is disgraceful.”