Nearest stroke centre likely to be over 40 minutes away


The NHS in Kent and Medway have now published their preferred option for three new specialist ‘hyper acute stroke units’.  They are proposing that the units will be at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Maidstone Hospital and William Harvey Hospital in Ashford.

If the stroke unit at Pembury Hospital is closed, the nearest alternative unit will be over 40 minutes drive away from Crowborough.  This is because following similar reorganisations in East Sussex, stroke services were centralised at Eastbourne District General Hospital and the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton.

The aim is to reorganise services so that specialist stroke staff can more consistently deliver high quality care around the clock, and in so doing reduce deaths and long-term disability from stroke for local people.  A key evaluation criteria used in the review process is can patients reach a hyper acute stroke unit within a reasonable time frame.  The ambition to offer those stroke patients who need them (only 15-20% of stroke patients do) clot-busting drugs within 120 minutes of calling 999 with stroke symptoms.

Earlier this year, local doctors, other clinicians, stroke survivors, and the general public, were asked to submit their comments on a shortlist of five options.   Only two of the five shortlisted options included Tunbridge Wells Hospital as one of the three hyper acute stroke units.  Over over 5,000 responses were generated.  One of the challenges the NHS is facing, is recruiting and retaining doctors and nurses for this specialist area of medicine.

The next stage in the review process is to develop a detailed document that will describe how the preferred option was selected and set out an implementation plan that will cover areas such as workforce, estates and capital requirement.  A Joint Committee of the ten local NHS clinical commissioning groups will examine this and then make a final decision on the future shape of urgent stroke services in December 2018 or January 2019.

Over the next few months the NHS will be gathering views and feedback on the proposed new approach to rehabilitation from stroke survivors, their families and carers, front-line staff, local councillors and the public to help inform detailed implementation plans.

Look out for further information on the Kent and Medway NHS website:



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  1. This sounds rather like the excuses the police offered when centralising their PCSOs. Not enough personnel, so move them all into centres where they can be more efficient (?), leaving our streets free for criminals and anti-social behaviour. If anyone in my family seemed to be suffering a stroke, I’d not expect them to survive or at least have a good chance of recovery if they had to travel 40 minutes to Maidstone because that’s where the experts are waiting for them. The whole point about strokes is fast action: F.A.S.T.

  2. How do you get to Maidstone, Ashford or Dartford in 40 minutes from Crowborough, without a private helicopter?

    Even the Pembury Hospital is pushing it within that time frame through the congested roads of Kent and Sussex. The last time I called an ambulance for an elderly patient following an accident, it took more than two and a half hours for the ambulance to arrive and it was nearly three and a half hours from the time of the first call before the patient arrived at Pembury. Well outside the 120 minutes needed for stroke patients to receive treatment.

    On another occasion I drove a patient to Pembury myself because I was told the ambulance would take too long. It still took longer than the 120 minutes to reach Pembury and find somewhere to park – even with a Blue Badge.

    Yes, stroke care – and health care generally, is woefully inadequate in this area, but moving it further away is not the answer. For many people in Crowborough, Pembury and Maidstone are already too difficult to reach. With a growing population, we need more hospitals and more localised care not less.

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