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Stroke units could be axed as NHS pushes forward with huge review of health services in Kent

Four hospitals in Kent and Medway could lose their beleaguered stroke units under plans being developed by the NHS.

As exclusively reported in our sister paper the Kent Messenger last month, the NHS is in the process of creating a series of Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STP), partnering up hospital trusts with local authorities and other groups to decide how patients in England will be treated in future.

The plans in Kent and Medway aim to meet rising demand, improve patient outcomes and move a huge number of services out of acute hospitals into the community.

Stock image
Stock image

It is part of a national bid to cut at least £22 billion by 2020.

So far there has been no wider consultation.

Currently, urgent care for seriously ill stroke patients is provided at seven local hospitals across eight different clinical commissioning groups.

These are: Darent Valley Hospital; Medway Foundation Trust; Maidstone Hospital; Tunbridge Wells Hospital; William Harvey Hospital; Kent and Canterbury Hospital and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital.

Each unit offers specialist teams of doctors, nurses and therapists who provide 24/7 treatment to stroke victims.

The care these people receive in the first 72 hours can make the difference between life and death and life-long disability.

A stroke in the brain. Picture: iStock
A stroke in the brain. Picture: iStock

An urgent review and public consultation on the stroke service was launched last year after commissioning identified a catalogue of problems including poor performance, low staffing levels and outcomes for patients.

Units were found to be inconsistent and not always meeting the national benchmarks for the service.

If commissioners go ahead with the emerging model of three centres, it is likely Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust (MTW) could lose one of its two centres. The locations have not yet been decided.

Richard Hudson, spokesman for NHS Swale and NHS Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley Clinical Commissioning Groups, said: “As has been widely announced, the health and social care system in each part of the country is currently developing proposals to ensure better health and wellbeing, better care, and a sustainable NHS for all.

“Right now in Kent and Medway we are at a very early stage of developing proposals, which will be for public debate and discussion.

“Once further developed, proposals will be tested by the national health and care bodies. After this, they will go forward for consideration and development by the public and other interested parties.

“We expect this process to begin during the Autumn, but at this initial stage nothing has been finalised and no decisions have been made.

“No changes to the services people currently receive will be made without local engagement and, where required, consultation.”

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