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GP asked to vote against plans to shut stroke unit at the Queen Elizabeth Queen Mother Hospital in Margate

An NHS campaigner has called on GPs to vote down plans to shut the QEQM's stroke unit on the back of new evidence.

The service faces being moved to a new hyper-acute unit in Ashford, leaving patients in Thanet facing ambulance journey times of an hour or more.

Health bosses have played down fears over the distance, claiming the priority is to deliver the best care in a specialist facility.

A protest to save QEQM's stroke service outside the hospital
A protest to save QEQM's stroke service outside the hospital

But Dr Coral Jones - a GP herself - has highlighted evidence in a 2018 paper which supports stabilising treatment being delivered locally first if journey times exceed 15 to 20 minutes.

It was written by Professor Pervinder Bhogal, of St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London - an expert in stroke treatment.

Dr Jones believes the contents of the paper should encourage Sir Roger Gale and Craig Mackinlay to help stop the stroke unit plans as the paper shows the debate over journey times versus treatment in a specialist centre is unresolved.

Dr Jones, a member of the Save Our NHS in Kent campaign, said: “The study says that if the additional journey to a specialist centre is longer than 15-20 minutes, local care to stabilise the patient is a better course of action.

“Our MPs and decision makers need to wake up. The decision to cut stroke units in Kent is not justified by evidence; in fact, it flies in the face of the best evidence available.”

Dr Jones is calling on GPs on the committee signing off the decision at the end of this month to vote against the plans.

Coral Jones with the paper by Professor Bhogal
Coral Jones with the paper by Professor Bhogal

She said: “I hope they will make the right decision, despite the pressure on them from NHS managers”.

The letter states that “The Bhogal paper and the NHS document highlight the lack of evidence supporting delay in primary treatment of stroke which will result from the closure of the stroke unit in Margate.

“The decision to close the Margate stroke service, which offers the recommended facilities of a Primary Stroke Centre of clinical assessment, CT scan and thrombolysis, is premature when plans for thrombectomy centres are being developed.”

Thrombolysis is the treatment of a stroke with clot-busting drugs, and thrombectomy is the physical removal of a blood clot in the brain.

Thrombolysis is administered in the QEQM hospital, but thrombectomy is not.

Dr Jones said: “Will Thanet patients just be travelling further for the same treatment, given that thrombectomy is not a guaranteed part of the offering at William Harvey Hospital in Ashford?”

"The decision to cut stroke units in Kent is not justified by evidence; in fact, it flies in the face of the best evidence available" - Dr Coral Jones

Save our NHS in Kent spokesman Carly Jeffrey added: “We have been writing to councillors and the GPs who have a vote on the committee in recent months, providing details of all the flaws in the Stroke Review plan.

“If they do not take all of these factors into account it will be a serious breach of their responsibilities."

The campaign group is asking members people to attend a public meeting of health committee councillors at County Hall in Maidstone on Friday, January 25, at 9.30am.

Ms Jeffrey said: “We are asking people to assemble outside County Hall at 9.30am.

"If people want to attend but can’t afford the train fare to Maidstone, we ask them to contact us and we will try to subsidise costs.”

  • Anyone interested can email saveournhskent@gmail.com
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