“The decision of the Joint Committee to approve a 3 HASU model for Kent & Medway with Darent Valley, Maidstone and The William Harvey hospitals emerging as the final option is a huge disappointment to the residents of Thanet, and to campaigners who argued strongly that the QEQM at Margate should be a preferred third site, and a personal disappointment to me; the outcome I had been campaigning for was for a fourth HASU at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother hospital (QEQM, Margate).
“The Stroke Review team put their case strongly, backed up with clinical evidence. The fact is that stroke care across Kent and Medway has been shamefully poor for too long. All of the current six sites rate poorly at the lowest ‘D’ and ‘E’ ratings. This includes close to half of patients not receiving a scan within the hour of arrival, and mixed, generally poor statistics on waiting times, after arrival, for clot-busting drugs. In some ways, more is the pity that we must wait until 2021 for the new configuration which will have better health outcomes, despite the issues of local accessibility.
“The obvious concern is the travel time from Thanet to Ashford, with published journey times showing that even a blue lighted journey is rarely less than an hour. We have heard much about the ‘golden hour’ and indeed the government’s own advertisements over many years have always highlighted that speed is key. I am somewhat reassured that the HASU formula ensures that specialist stroke teams are likely to be better prepared for arrival of patients, will have dedicated stroke staff 24/7 and with the team, the very best of equipment meaning more rapid scans and treatment once at the hospital. This stands in some contrast to the situation now, whereby journey time might be short, but patients enter the waiting queue of ambulance arrivals and delay during triage assessments.
“As part of the process I had a number of meetings with the senior transformation team; they have given a commitment to improved local rehabilitation facilities, with the HASU being the centre for initial high level care, and anticipated transfer back locally once the initial treatment has been given and the condition stabilised. Improvements to the ambulance pool are also proposed so that the time from call to pick-up can be minimised and improved for Thanet. The most serious cases of brain bleed will result in transfer to specialists in London, as now.
“The Joint Committee recognises that should a new Canterbury hospital emerge, then it would be likely that HASU facilities would move there from Ashford; all would welcome this proposal.
I think it is now time to keep calm down the political rhetoric from some quarters and consider the many positive improvements that will flow from the HASU formula. In other parts of the country where the move to HASUs has been made, they typically receive an ‘A’ rating, meaning better outcomes and recovery.
“The NHS should not be used as a political football. I am not a stroke specialist but do have confidence that clinicians and healthcare professionals have considered the options fully and fairly, and have created a defendable plan that has been rigorously and critically tested with the overall expectation of improvements to current stroke services across Kent and Medway.”