Published: 10:36, 09 April 2019
| Updated: 11:05, 09 April 2019
A legal challenge has been launched to fight the proposed closure of Thanet's stroke unit with campaigners calling for donations to help fund it.
Members of the Thanet Stroke Campaign today revealed their bid for a judicial review and crowdfunding page to raise £5,000 for the first stage.
The group has appointed legal expertise from London based law firm Irwin Mitchell and are urging residents concerned about the plans to shut the stroke centre at Margate's QEQM and move services to Ashford.
The judicial review will challenge the legality of the decision taken by NHS bosses in Kent and East Sussex to create three Hyper Acute Stroke Units (HASUs) at Dartford, Maidstone and Ashford in a £40 million reshuffle.
Janet Fielding, group spokesman from Ramsgate, says launching the review will give patients the best chance to stop the "questionable decision".
She said: "It is absolutely vital that people now give whatever they can to the campaign.
"It will also send the clearest message possible to the decision makers and the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) that the residents of Thanet will no longer put up with a second class NHS."
The fundraising campaign has 29 days left and has already raised £700 within hours of going live.
Carolyn Hume, a stroke patient and campaigner from the group, says she is supporting the cause after being seen at the QEQM within 10 minutes of having a stroke.
Mrs Hume, 55, said: "When my partner dialled 999 we had no idea what was wrong but knew it was serious with the severity of my symptoms. The paramedics were also unsure as I had none of the typical FAST stroke symptoms.
"I was treated in QEQM hospital by fantastic specialists 10 minutes after I left my home and stabilised quickly in order to be scanned to diagnose my stroke and start appropriate treatment.
"It would have been disastrous for me or for anyone else who lives such a distance from Ashford to have to travel for over an hour in an ambulance and to be at least 50 minutes later in starting any treatment when speed is so critical following a stroke."
But the NHS maintains the review will help save lives.
Rachel Jones, Director for the Kent and Medway Stroke Review, said: “We absolutely understand the concerns that some people in Thanet have about the location of hyper acute stroke units in Kent and Medway that was agreed recently by GP leaders.
“However, it is important to note that the decision was taken after a five-year review of urgent stroke services, led by local stroke specialists. They looked at a wealth of data and evidence which shows that centralising stroke services in three hyper acute units is the right thing for patients.
"Once the new units are up and running, everyone having a stroke in Kent and Medway will be taken to their nearest hyper acute stroke unit, which will offer specialist stroke care round the clock every day of the year.
“This will ensure people get expert round the clock care in the crucial hours and days after their stroke to reduce their risk of dying, minimise their risk of long-term disability and improve their independence. We expect the hyper acute stroke units to save an extra life a fortnight across Kent and Medway – including Thanet.”
The fundraising page has been set up by Ramsgate Labour councillor Karen Constantine, who sits on the Kent County Council committee which last month threatened to call in the decision to the health secretary, Matt Hancock.
Cllr Constantine says she is delighted with the positive response so far. She added: "We need people to keep pledging whatever they can, once we reach our target we be submitting our case to the courts."
Support the fundraising by visiting the crowdfunding page and join the campaingers' Facebook group by searching Thanet Stroke Campaign.