Published: 16:44, 16 July 2019
| Updated: 17:40, 16 July 2019
A hospital's stroke unit is set to be closed amid a staffing crisis.
Tunbridge Wells Hospital's stroke unit was expected to permanently shut in March 2020, along with units in Margate and Medway, in favour of specialist units.
But a lack of specialist nurses at the Pembury hospital means the unit will close in September this year.
Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust says the closure is temporary, but is unlikely to change before the closure of units countywide next year.
A trust spokeswoman said: “The welfare and safety of our patients is our absolute priority and as part of our ongoing commitment to deliver the very highest standards of care, we will be making some temporary changes to our stroke service.
“Moving our stroke ward at Tunbridge Wells Hospital to Maidstone Hospital will ensure we can continue to offer patients high quality stroke care. The temporary changes are being introduced so that we can maintain a safe service for our patients.
“While we have improved our overall vacancy rate following a robust recruitment drive, we continue to have a high number of specialist nursing vacancies on the stroke ward at Tunbridge Wells Hospital and we also face recruitment challenges to our Thrombolysis service.
"Uncertainty around the implementation of the hyper acute stroke units and acute stroke units for Kent and Medway has added to our recruitment challenges at Tunbridge Wells and some staff, understandably, have sought more certainty in other roles both within and outside of the Trust.
“The consolidated service at Maidstone Hospital will comprise acute and rehabilitation beds.
"We anticipate up to three additional stroke patients per day will be cared for at Maidstone instead of Tunbridge Wells Hospital.
"While the move is temporary, it is unlikely the decision will be reversed before the configuration of stroke services in Kent and Medway.
“We will be talking to patients, carers and other groups over the coming weeks about the temporary move and our plans."