26th February 2020
That the Court has rejected the case made by those opposing the creation of a Hyper Acute Stroke Unit at Ashford will in some quarters not be a popular decision. The harsh fact is, however, that the judge listened to all of the evidence presented by the clinicians and came to the same conclusion that I reached myself at the start of 2019: the case has been made and the establishment of the unit will be in the public interest.
Let us be clear: this has nothing whatsoever to do with funding, is not a “Government” decision. It is not even a decision taken on a whim by the East Kent Trust. As I said almost exactly a year ago (Gale`s View 27th February 2019)
“The proposal to treat acute stroke patients in a newly-created and fully-funded specialist Hyper Acute unit in Ashford is based upon a hard-nosed and realistic assessment, taken by properly qualified medical professionals, of the best and proven way to provide modern treatment to offer acute stroke patients the best chance of life and a good recovery”.
Local consultant physicians, with the backing of the widely recognised expertise of the National Stroke Association, have refuted the myth of the `golden hour` as being not relevant to the argument and they support the creation of a specialist centre of excellence at which vital diagnosis and treatment can be offered appropriately and swiftly. Those who have said we should have four, rather than three, hyper acute units in Kent have to recognise that three is better than the two that were originally under consideration, that it is not practicable to provide and staff all services on all sites and that therefore hard decisions have to be taken – not only in relation to stroke but in the location of other services as well. I made this opinion very clear when I said, during the General Election campaign, that while others might seek to `weaponise` the Health Service I have never been afraid to put healthcare and outcomes ahead of political advantage. We have a duty to secure the best services for the largest number of patients.
There is, of course, always the risk a stroke patient will die in an ambulance between Thanet or Herne Bay and Ashford and if that happens then the inevitable accusations will be made whatever the circumstances. I am satisfied, though, that the establishment of a Hyper Acute unit at Ashford backed up by swift transfer back to the planned new state of the art Stroke Rehabilitation unit created at the QEQM in Margate or to the Queen Vic Memorial Hospital in Herne Bay and other local facilities equipped to offer physiotherapy and rehabilitation close to friends and family will afford those that I was elected to represent the best achievable chance of survival and good recovery from a condition that in the past has left too many patients dead or severely incapacitated. The finding of the Court will save lives and we must now move to implement the result of that decision as swiftly as possible.