Gale's View - 26/09/2018

September 26th 2018

Many years ago, during the consultation relating to the “Tomorrow’s Healthcare” proposals for the re- distribution of hospital healthcare in East Kent, I supported the transfer of the Neonatal Intensive Care Services from Canterbury to Ashford. This prompted a local and eminent paediatrician to say that “If Roger Gale gets his way babies will die” which, in the run- up to a General Election was not the sort of local newspaper headline that any politician would wish to generate! 

The “NICU” at Canterbury was, at the time, a four cot unit which, although staffed with dedication, was too small to attract the expertise and training doctors to make it viable. The result was that the tiny beds were usually filled with Special Care babies and, when a person in need of intensive care did come along then tended to be transferred to the Medway or to London.  The move to Ashford facilitated the creation of a much larger unit serving a wider area and embracing, as well as East Kent, parts of East Sussex. To my knowledge no babies have died as a result of this decision and indeed it is highly likely. - although of course hard to prove - that additional young lives have been saved.  

It is necessary in politics, particularly where healthcare is concerned, to take not the populist or expedient decision but to choose the right pathway in the interests of the greatest good and the best outcomes for the maximum number of people. I have taken that view in relation to the creation and location of the proposed “Hyper unit” for stroke treatment, again at Ashford, and I regard with disdain the antics of those who are seeking to exploit this decision for partisan purposes that have little or nothing to do with good medical practice. 

I received, recently, a message from a relatively elderly lady who, still working, has suffered a stroke and, living in Thanet, has “not received any follow- up services including psychotherapy or even a doctor’s appointment “. That, of course, is completely unacceptable and is the sort of circumstance that the creation of a centre of excellence with local back- up and rehabilitation services is designed to alleviate. 

The ‘F.A.S.T,’ (Face, Arms, Speech, Telephone) mantra has, by virtue of the acronym, given the impression that speed is more important than correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment. While swift medical attention is of course essential what matters most is the correct diagnostic equipment, the right treatment for a clot or bleed carried out in the best facilities by those with the qualifications and expertise to perform delicate procedures followed by transfer for recovery to a local hospital or at home as soon as safe and practicable. 

It is an established fact that more lives are not only saved but better and fuller recoveries are achieved in specialised centres. It is also clearly understood that post- stroke patients suffer from depression and that the more support that they can receive from family and friends as close to home as possible the better. Hence the absolute need for the post- treatment recovery centres that it is intended will be established in our local hospitals and in the community. 

The lady who wrote to me should not have been left, and in the future will not be left, without appropriate therapies and therapists. Neither will she be left without the other vital ingredient in this equation - access to transport to and from hospital. That is also being addressed as part of the proposal,  

I am, myself, in the ‘stroke zone’ of age. I do not have private health insurance. I use the same medical services as my constituents and I live in a rural village. I am prepared to stake my own prospects of survival and, more importantly to me, those of my wife, upon proposals that I believe will give more people more chance of, when experiencing a stroke, coming out on the sunny side. 

I may not be around to witness the long- term effects of this policy but I will hazard an informed guess that in time those who, as with the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, were opposed to change, will be grateful not to me but to those with the relevant knowledge and expertise to take the hard decisions for doing not the easy thing but the right thing.

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