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Frequently asked questions

Why are stroke services being reviewed?

Currently, there are seven hospitals that provide stroke care in Kent and Medway with some areas of good practice, but patients across the county do not receive a consistent standard of care across 24/7.

Over the past year, a stroke review, commissioned by the local CCGs has been underway. It involves stroke survivors, people who have high risks of having a stroke, the public and hospital, ambulance and community clinical representatives from all NHS trusts in Kent and Medway. This review focuses on acute care, in particular the first 72 hours after a suspected stroke. There is clear evidence that specialist stroke care delivered over 24/7 improves outcomes for patients, reducing the number of people who die from a stroke and supports stroke survivors to regain maximum independence. 

Are you putting patients first?

In line with national best practice for patients, the primary aim of the Stroke Review is to ensure that anybody who has a stroke, day or night, anywhere across the county has the best chances of survival and recovery.

Will there be continued investment?

The level of available funding in these services remains unchanged, but a number of different ways of working or ‘models’ are being evaluated to make sure people in Kent and Medway can access excellent stroke care that consistently meets national standards. The recommendations will ensure that the resources available are used well and effectively across Kent and Medway.

Has a decision been made about where stroke services will be?

No decisions have been made about future locations of services yet. However, an options modelling process, led by a group of clinical representatives from each hospital trust, has discussed key factors. These include workforce, travel time to hospital, patient care and how services might work across various hospital sites.

These key factors have also been discussed in detail with members of the public, voluntary organisations, stroke survivors and their families or carers to understand what is important to patients and their families.

The sites of hyper acute stroke units need to fit with other critical clinical areas such as a fully-functioning Emergency Department, a 24/7 medical team and 24/7 imaging services. Plans will therefore need to align to the wider Five Year Forward View discussions and the Sustainability and Transformation Plan involving acute hospitals which is currently being developed.

Does clinical evidence support the case for change?

There is a comprehensive body of evidence that supports the establishment of a 24/7 specialist-led service. The best practice guidance is that death rates are reduced and long term outcomes are improved if stroke patients are treated in a high quality stroke unit where they get rapid access to diagnostics, specialist assessment and intervention. Briefing for engagement event attendees – October 2016

Such a unit needs to have a specialist workforce treating the right number of patients (enabling them to sustain and improve their skills), and to be available 24 hours a day, every day.

The national strategy, and guidance from Professor Tony Rudd, the National Clinical Director for Stroke, highlight that recovery from a stroke is significantly influenced by the percentage of patients:

  • Seeing a stroke consultant within 24 hours
  • Having a brain scan, ideally within an hour of admission and at least within 24 hours of admission
  • Being seen by a stroke-trained nurse and one therapist within 72 hours of admission
  • Being admitted to a dedicated stroke unit within four hours of arriving at A&E
  • Having clot-busting drugs (if appropriate) ideally within one hour of arriving at A&E and at least within six hours
  • Having a specialist swallow screening within four hours  

And that the most significant interventions are:

  • A nutritional assessment and swallowing assessment within 72 hours
  • Receiving adequate food and fluids for the first 72 hours.

How are decisions made?

A Stroke Review Programme Board - made up of clinical experts and patient representatives including the Stroke Association as core members, alongside senior representatives from all eight clinical commissioning groups, NHS England, South East Coast Ambulance Service, Clinical Networks, engagement leads and the Stroke Clinical Lead for Kent, Surrey and Sussex - agrees what action needs to be taken for the review to be successful.

The process is overseen and supported by the NHS South East Strategic Clinical Network and the National Clinical Lead for Stroke, Professor Tony Rudd. A clinical reference group (CRG), consisting of clinical and operational representatives from all local acute hospital trusts and providers, links into the Board.

Because hyper-acute stroke units must be on sites which can offer the full range of emergency facilities required (such as 24/7 CT scans), the Kent and  Medway Sustainability and Transformation Programme Board (made up of the chief executives of all NHS organisations in Kent and Medway, the Kent and Medway Health and Wellbeing Board chairs, directors of public health and directors of social care) will need to sign off the final site recommendations.

Publicly elected members of the Kent Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee and the Medway Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee have formed a Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (JHOSC) to oversee each stage of the review on behalf of local people. They have reviewed and approved the Case for Change and the decision making process. 

Regular updates, information and assurance are given to them and they are involved in the process of agreeing options that the public, clinicians and others in Kent and Medway will be consulted about.

No decision has yet been made about what those options are and no date has been set for public consultation. For more information, please sign up as a member of the Health Network. This will allow you to receive updates on opportunities to get involved and to have your say on stroke and other aspects of local healthcare.

Decisions about any changes to stroke services in Kent and Medway will not be made until after the formal consultation process has been completed.