On 5 September 2019, I was honoured to read out a statement on behalf of Save Our NHS in Kent (SONiK) to a full meeting of Thanet District Council. This draws attention to the imminent dangers facing our stroke unit and calls upon councillors to help in averting them. You can read the full statement below and on the SONiK website.
Everyone in this room should be aware that local health commissioners have decided to close the stroke unit at QEQM hospital.
SONiK believes this decision has been taken in an attempt to save money rather than to address local need.
People in Thanet are more likely to suffer a stroke, and be hospitalised as a result, than people in more affluent parts of Kent. SONiK believes it’s irresponsible to take health services away from those who need them most.
We also fear that, if the stroke unit is allowed to close, this will be followed by other services – like the A&E and consultant-led maternity – and that QEQM will be seriously downgraded.
Working with the legal team that successfully challenged the downgrading of Lewisham Hospital, SONiK has prepared a case that will be heard in the High Court (likely in early December). We’re asking for QEQM to be considered as one of four sites for a hyper-acute stroke unit.
We had planned to ask you today to donate £5,000 to the £15,000 community contribution we were asked to raise by the Legal Aid Board. However, our fundraising efforts have been so successful that we don’t need to ask you for a contribution at this point. But we hope to be able to come back to you if the case goes to appeal.
For now, we want to alert you to three very serious points and to ask for help.
Firstly: The hospital trust is refusing to put in place measures to prevent early closure of the QEQM stroke unit, as happened recently in Tunbridge Wells. If our stroke unit closes before the promised new facility is ready at Ashford (2021 at the earliest), we’ll suffer the double whammy of having to travel further for the same service.
We call upon TDC councillors to support us in asking the hospital trust to introduce incentives to prevent stroke staff from leaving before the new unit opens.
Secondly: In order to judge the impact of time-critical conditions being treated outside Thanet, we need accurate end-to-end data that show what happens when 999-call patients have to travel further to access acute care.
We call upon TDC councillors to join us in asking the hospital trust to start recording these data as part of the Kent Stroke Review and the East Kent NHS reconfiguration.
Thirdly: In SONiK’s view, the stroke scrutiny process carried out by Kent County Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee was deeply flawed. An off-the-record meeting took place on 7 May between HOSC members and NHS champions of the stroke plans. Two councillors reversed their decisions as a result of this meeting, but the public will never have access to what was claimed or promised. This is neither accountable nor transparent.
We call upon TDC councillors to make an official complaint to KCC and to ask them to commit to the eradication of private meetings from future scrutiny processes.