Kent councillors support NHS plans for urgent stroke services

Published 21 May 2019

Kent councillors have voted to support the decision by local doctors to establish hyper acute stroke units at Maidstone, Darent Valley and William Harvey hospitals to reduce death and disability for local people.

At its meeting on 21 May, the Kent Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) accepted the rationale for the move towards centres of excellence and, despite reservations, agreed the current proposals may be the best way forward at this time.

The members of the committee also recognised that any further delay may have a negative impact on health outcomes across the county.

This follows a decision by the HOSC to ask for more evidence from the Kent and Medway Stroke Review before deciding whether to exercise its right, as a local Overview and Scrutiny Committee, to refer the reconfiguration plans to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care for independent review. That will now not happen.

The plans were agreed by the decision-making committee of local GPs from across Kent, Medway, Bexley and East Sussex on 14 February 2019 on the basis of advice from stroke specialists who are the most qualified, knowledgeable and experienced people to understand what works to improve stroke care.

Rachel Jones, Director for the Kent and Medway Stroke Review said: “We are pleased that the HOSC members, after considering the evidence very carefully and thoroughly, concluded that ithey would not stand in the way of improvements to urgent stroke services.

"There are currently no specialist hyper acute stroke units in Kent and Medway and, despite the tireless hard work and commitment of our staff, our local stroke services are not able consistently to provide the level of care people should be able to expect. Combining our staff and resources into three hyper acute units, able to run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, will allow us to deliver excellent care to stroke patients.

“I would like to thank the Committee for the highly valuable support and challenge the members have provided throughout this process. Their insights, questions and the views they have shared from local people, have helped to ensure our plans are robust and well thought through. We will continue to work with the HOSC over the coming months to respond to the further issues they raised today, and to continue to seek their views on our implementation plans as they develop.

“The decision to establish three hyper acute stroke units in Kent and Medway is supported by local, regional and national specialists, including the four hospital trusts and the senior stroke consultants in Kent and Medway, who explained their reasons for this in a recent blog.

"These specialists agree there is overwhelming evidence to show that the current under-performance of stroke services in Kent and Medway means more people are dying than would be expected, and people are being left with avoidable disability. This is wholly unacceptable and must change as a matter of urgency.

“While undertaking the review of urgent stroke services, the NHS in Kent and Medway considered the health and wellbeing of the entire population who use them. Factors taken into account included population growth, deprivation, travel times to potential hyper acute stroke units, and impact on specialist stroke staff.

“It is our very carefully considered view that the option approved – for hyper acute stroke units at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Maidstone Hospital, and William Harvey Hospital in Ashford – is the one that will best deliver the necessary improvements to care for stroke patients.”