Statement from Cllr Alan Jarrett, Leader of Medway Council, to the announcement on the proposed stroke HASUs in Kent and Medway.
We are extremely disappointed by this decision. We believe it is a bitter blow for the half a million people of Medway and wider Kent served by the Medway Maritime Hospital and potentially puts many hundreds of lives at risk*.
Cardiovascular disease and stroke disproportionately impacts on people living in the most deprived areas of the country. Investment decisions should take into account the need to address these health inequalities. In Medway 20.3% of local residents live in areas identified as the most disadvantaged in England, for Swale it is 22.2%. The North Kent areas of Medway and Swale experience some of the worst health inequalities in the country and as a consequence we experience higher rates of deaths from coronary heart disease which is why we need excellent medical facilities here.
Medway Council has put in place comprehensive and ambitious plans to transform Medway. Long term investment is required to address the root causes that have led to health inequality and we have consistently campaigned for extra NHS funding.
This decision has ramifications for patients across all of Kent. Medway Maritime Hospital currently cares for the largest number of stroke patients in Kent and Medway. It is therefore very concerning that over 500,000 people in Medway and Swale, who also receive their stroke care at Medway Maritime Hospital will soon no longer be able to do so. These patients, should this proposal be implemented, will now need to be treated at other hospitals.
The configuration option of Medway Maritime Hospital, Tunbridge Wells Hospital and William Harvey Hospital, as set out in the stroke services consultation earlier this year, offered a high quality solution to address the inequalities across Kent and Medway. Medway Maritime Hospital has invested heavily in stroke services. It already provides a wide range of supporting services needed to treat stroke patients and was ideally placed to become a hyper acute stroke unit (HASU).
We will be challenging this decision to ensure the services meet the needs of local Medway residents and the wider Kent population. We do not want to see health inequalities increase in Medway and residents’ lives put at risk following this decision.