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Letter to Health Secretary - Hyper Acute Stroke Unit

We, as Members of Parliament covering Medway and Swale, are writing to raise our very real concerns with the local planning, decision-making and leadership around our future healthcare. Of particular concern is the recent decision by Kent and Medway CCGs to reject Medway’s bid to house one of the three hyper acute stroke units being proposed.

We should first state that we fully support behind the reconfiguration of the region’s stroke units from six to three, in order to streamline services and pool valuable expertise. However, the final decision, which excludes Medway Maritime Hospital, appears to neglect where there is greater need and deprivation.

Medway is the fastest growing urban area in the South East outside of London, however it suffers from significant deprivation and health inequalities. The same applies to Sittingbourne and Sheppey. Our local hospital’s already dedicated stroke unit currently deals with over 500 strokes per year; more than any other in the region.

Medway Hospital’s location in this urban area is also better suited to the surrounding area. For instance, those living in areas such as the Isle of Sheppey, which is another area of deep social and health service deprivation, now face a hugely difficult journey to reach Maidstone Hospital, which is almost impossible to reach by public transport compared to Medway. While the CCGs claim to have based much of the decision on travel times, it is clear this is not the case for all those in need of help.

It therefore makes no sense for Medway Hospital to not only miss out on being a hyper acute stroke unit, but also lose its already strong performing stroke care which benefits so many people.

We are also concerned with the procedure followed by the CCGs when helping to inform their decision. There was little transparency on offer and post-decision there is still no analytical document explaining how the outcome was reached. The anonymous voting method used to make the final decision was highly flawed as basic facts alone miss out on the various and important nuances within communities, such as those mentioned above in Medway and in Sittingbourne and Sheppey, but also Thanet which is also going to be without a service within reasonable reach.

Unfortunately, this leaves us with no confidence in the Kent and Medway CCGs and STP process if it cannot properly identify the needs and challenges facing areas of Kent over the coming decades. We have seen very little from the STP to suggest it has a realistic plan to provide for our communities and the hundreds of thousands of newcomers we can expect in the coming years.

We understand that Medway Maritime Hospital has extended to you and invitation to visit in the coming months and we greatly hope you will accept this offer to discuss this serious local and regional matter. Additionally, we as the below signatories would hugely appreciate the opportunity to meet with you to discuss the way in which Medway is viewed in the region’s health economy and what steps can be taken to plan effectively in the best interests of Medway and North Kent’s growing population.

Yours ever

Gordon Henderson MP
Member of Parliament for Sittingbourne and Sheppey

Kelly Tolhurst MP
Member of Parliament for Rochester and Strood

Rehman Chishti MP
Member of Parliament for Gillingham and Rainham

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