A protest has been held ahead of a crunch meeting which will shape the future of stroke provision in Kent.
Campaigners gathered outside the Hilton Hotel in Maidstone, where health officials will vote on plans to open three hyper acute stroke units (HASUs) across the county.
The joint committee of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) is expected to agree they will be located at Dartford’s Darent Valley Hospital, Maidstone Hospital and the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford.
Objections from residents in Thanet and Medway have been the most vocal since the proposal was made public, with concerns expressed about long journey times impacting on the health of patients.
Dozens of people have been singing protest songs and chants ahead of the meeting in the hope of influencing the committee’s decision.
Dr Coral Jones said: “I think it’s really important the people who oppose this can see we’re here today and the doctors will see we’re here today.
“We’ve also been collecting signatures from patients and staff in the doctors surgeries and we’ve got hundreds of signatures. None of the patients want the doctors to sign this off.
“If the consultation was genuine and they paid attention to what the people of Thanet have said, it wouldn’t be going ahead.”
Concerns mainly revolve around the favoured option making the 24/7 units – which would treat patients in the first 72 hours after a stroke – difficult to access for high-risk communities.
Save Our NHS in Kent (SONIK) member Carly Jeffrey added: “If they vote for the plans, then the stroke units at Margate’s QEQM hospital, Medway Maritime Hospital and Pembury Hospital will close.
“Stroke sufferers in Thanet will have to travel over an hour to Ashford for treatment, on top of 40 minutes for ambulance delays for 10% of patients.”
Medway Council has already set aside £50,000 for a possible judicial review against any decision which sees the Towns miss out on a specialist stroke unit.