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15.02.19

Controversial shake-up of Kent stroke services given rubber stamp amid calls for judicial review

A major reorganisation of stroke services across Kent and Medway have been approved following a unanimous decision by the Joint Committee of CCGs.

The plans to close the six current stroke facilities in the region and create three new specialist “hyper acute stroke units” (HASUs) have faced criticism for reducing services and threatening safety, but now has formal approval.

The plans were chosen following a five-year review of the service and public consultation on five shortlisted options, and the CCGs say they will improve the overall service and allow specialist stroke staff to deliver care more consistently and around the clock, ultimately saving lives.

The joint committee, representing the eight CCGs for Kent and Medway, Bexley CCG and High Weald Lewes Havens CCG, unanimously approved the proposed HASUs at William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, Maidstone Hospital, and Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford.

Three hospital sites will lose their stroke services: Turnbridge Wells, Medway, and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother hospitals.

Medway Council said previously it would launch a judicial review, arguing that HASUs should be placed in “areas of high deprivation” in the county, and others have protested that the plans will leave many too far from a stroke centre.

Carly Jeffrey of Save Our NHS in Kent stated that people in Thanet would have their journey to their nearest stroke centre increased by 10 minutes to an hour – a 500% increase.

Over 100 people attended the public meeting and at one point it had to be adjourned and reconvened in private.

East Kent Hospitals University NHS FT recognised that stroke services in Kent and Medway were “some of the poorest in the country” which is why a five-year stroke review was commissioned, which the trust said has worked hard to bring about change.

Rachel Jones, director of the Kent and Medway Stroke Review, said that the decision comes after a detailed and robust process led by stroke specialists – and that whilst its proposals had not changed, it was working to address concerns over issues such as travel and transport.

Following the joint committee’s decision, NHS bosses said two of the stroke units would open to patients by spring next year, and the Ashford centre by 2021.

Vince Maple, leader of the Medway Labour group, said: “The lack of transparency throughout the decision-making process is extremely alarming, therefore we fully support both a potential judicial review and referring this decision to the secretary of state.”

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