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Update on the Kent & Medway Stroke Review

March 29, 2019 12:57 PM

At last week's Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee the proposed NHS Kent & Medway Stroke review was 'sent back' to them, as the first step of it being referred to the Secretary of State. The report proposed establishing three acute stroke units in Ashford, Maidstone and Darenth with each centre able to treat around 1500 patients a year. This would also have included building a new department in Ashford at a cost of 20 million pounds.

For the best part of the last year I have sat on committee after committee dealing with this report. Again and again I have raised questions and not received answers that satisfied me. I was really pleased at last to be joined by other KCC councllors who now share my deep reservations.

Firstly, despite the review's name, these stroke services will deal with all stroke patients through Kent & Medway plusthose in Bexley and East Sussex. With a population in Kent & Medway of just over 1.8 million there were over 3,000 strokes last year. Add in the other two areas and the population soars to just short of 3 million. And this doesn't include any of the new housing we see springing up all over the county! According to the Stroke Association's own forecast this means 9 and half thousand strokes each year to be treated at just 3 stroke units. Clearly there will not be enough capacity to treat all these patients.

Secondly the proposed location of the three units is not spread equally over Kent as a whole with two (Ashford and Maidstone) being sited close together. Only in the world of the NHS is Ashford even vaguely considered as being East Kent. Everyone, including KCC highways, know its is definitely mid Kent!

Thirdly the plans for patients' rehabilitation are not yet finalised - we were promised to have a completed report early in the year, then by Spring and now it's to be by the end of May. The initial proposals have ranged from giving out fuel vouchers, free hospital parking and even free bus services. There is no funding at all available and, in the current economic climate, this really is cloud cuckoo land! Relatives will not be able to visit their family members when they're in hospital and then there will be barriers put in the way of the necessary rehabilitation.

Lastly I have continually asked about Canterbury and where we fit in with this great scheme. I have been told that once the hospital is built, the stroke unit can simply be moved. I cannot see how the NHS can move a 20 million pound unit - can you?

The most positive commitment the NHS can make to local residents is to produce a Stroke plan that will work and then build the Acute Stroke Unit in Canterbury. This, with the new medical school on the horizon, would be an excellent foundation for our new and much needed Canterbury hospital.