As South Thanet’s Member of Parliament, I will always do my best to ensure that the very best medical care is available to the people on our Isle. That is why, from the initial information I have from the Clinical Commissioning Groups across Kent, and based on evidence from the professional clinicians responsible for services, I have an open mind on the proposals to establish three new ‘hyper acute’ stroke units in Kent and Medway.
Let me make quite clear that nothing has yet been decided with consultations ongoing. It may be that any new East Kent 'hyper acute' unit can and will be based at QEQM rather than the William Harvey as a conclusion to the consultation, but the current proposal is indeed that such services will go to Ashford.
You can be assured that I am fighting for QEQM to maintain as broad a spectrum of full range services, and full A&E as part of this process. Given our geographical position, I have no fears at all that as full a range of specialisms as possible will remain at QEQM into the future. I would encourage you to feed in your observations into the process. It is the natural condition to be against change and to want all services as close to home as possible. But we live in a new age of medical specialism with many conditions now treatable and survivable: a position unthinkable just a decade or two ago. Should we suffer the misfortune of extreme cardio-vascular events or suffer extreme trauma from accident, it is highly likely that a London hospital will be the preferred option. Similarly, advanced cancer treatment using pioneering techniques are likely to be London based. The age of 'everything, everywhere' is no longer sustainable or desirable to achieve best outcomes.
My understanding is that, unlike our current stroke services, these ‘hyper acute’ stroke units would operate with a multi-disciplinary team of stroke specialists, providing expert care around the clock with consultants on the wards seven days a week. The new units will allow people to receive the best possible care in the vital first few hours and days immediately after their stroke – saving lives and reducing disability. Such 'hyper acute' centres, where they are a feature of stroke services in other parts of the country, have demonstrably improved outcomes. This should be at the heart of decision making.
Each site in Kent and Medway would also have an acute stroke unit where people may go after the initial 72 hours for further care until they are ready to be discharged, and have a transient ischaemic attack (TIA or ‘mini stroke’) clinic. Kent currently does not have any hyper acute stroke units working in this way; patients are currently cared for in general stroke units. Good as they are, they do not operate in such an advanced and intensive way and do not achieve best outcomes compared to other areas that have chosen the 'hyper acute' route for treatment.
Locally we are seeing Labour activists stoking up fear amongst the vulnerable about potential changes to stroke services in Kent. I can but hazard a guess that professional clinicians have a greater understanding of stroke diagnosis and treatment than Labour and Momentum activists. However, I would urge constituents to read the consultation document for a more balanced view and submit any concerns they have thereafter to the consultation.