Published: 17:07, 11 October 2018
| Updated: 17:12, 11 October 2018
Claims that the stroke review will have "deadly consequences for people in Thanet" have been branded "inaccurate and irresponsible" by doctors.
Campaigners from Save Our NHS in Kent (Sonik) called out last month's NHS announcement of the 'preferred options' - which would see the closest stroke service to the district in Ashford - as a "dangerous experiment".
But NHS stroke physicians have hit back, saying they believe that "spreading fear and uncertainty hinders rather than helps".
A statement signed off by Dr Prasanna Aghoram, Dr David Hargroves, Dr David Sulch and Dr Peter Maskell, says that claims form the protest group "call into question" the dedication of NHS staff.
They said: "The statement suggesting that our plans for stroke services will have 'deadly consequences for people in Thanet' is inaccurate and irresponsible.
"The guiding principle of the clinicians who have led the Kent and Medway review of urgent stroke services is 'first do not harm'.
"To state that doctors, nurses and therapists would develop and support plans that are a 'dangerous experiment' and will result in 'less chance of surviving and...worse outcomes' is to call into question the dedication and expertise of those who want to do a better job for the patients they care for.
"The simple truth of the matter is that, as they currently stand, our stroke services do no consistently meet best practice standards across Kent and Medway, and our stroke teams are not always able to provide the first class care they want to deliver.
"This is something that as healthcare professionals we have a duty to address."
The team say there is a "compelling" body of national and international evidence to support the safety and benefits of the proposals made in the review, which was made public during the consultation and is still available on their website.
They added: "There has been extensive correspondence with Save Our NHS in Kent about this evidence which, despite the fact it has been developed and endorsed by senior and experienced experts in stroke medicine, they refuse to recognise.
"Sonik have repeatedly been offered a meeting to discuss the proposals, and offer they have yet to accept.
"While people are free to express their disappointment and voice their concerns, we believe that spreading fear and uncertainty hinders rather than helps the continuing public conversation that we are committed to having with local people about future plans for their health services."
KentOnline's sister paper Thanet Extra revealed in August that a person calling an ambulance in Thanet has a 0.3% chance of arriving within an hour at Ashford's William Harvey Hospital - which if proposals are put in place will be the closest hospital to the district with a stroke unit.
Sonik has held countless demonstrations outside the QEQM Hospital in a bid to fight plans.