Kent Ambulance Response Times Throw Proposed Hospital Changes into Chaos.

New data released yesterday by the failing South-East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust in response to our Freedom of Information request reveals that stroke patients in East Kent are having to wait up to three hours for an ambulance.

Whilst the average response times in East Kent for Category 1 (life threatening, cardiac arrest etc.) and Category 2 (chest pain, stroke etc.) call outs in December was 08:13 and 18:25 minutes respectively, the huge disparity in response times across the East Kent region is putting extra questions on local CCGs and the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust who are currently consulting on the reconfiguration of stoke services across the region.

The data, released yesterday reveals that patients in the Dover (CT16) area suffering from a suspected stroke, had the longest wait for an ambulance across East Kent in the month of December, with an average wait time of 41 minutes. Patients in the CT2 area of Canterbury suffering from a suspected stroke had an average wait time of nearly 27 minutes last month, whilst stroke call outs to Whitstable (CT5) and surrounds took an average of half an hour to arrive.

With the ongoing consultation about stroke services proposing to make the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford the only specialist centre for stroke treatment in the region, those in the CT16, CT2 and CT5 postcodes should not be alone in being very worried indeed. With travel times from central Dover to the William Harvey hospital being 30 minutes on a good, traffic-free run, the combination of ambulance wait-times and travel times means that any stroke patient from that area has a very poor chance of being seen by a specialist team with the ‘golden hour’ for treatment.

The outcomes for stroke patients in Whitstable are likely to be even worse. With the aforementioned average half hour wait for an ambulance combined with the average drive time of 45 minutes to the William Harvey hospital, the average stroke patient will arrive at hospital after 1 hour and 15 minutes.

The above statistics are, of course, only the averages. Shockingly, in December someone in Dover suspected of having a stroke had to wait nearly 3 and a half hours for an ambulance to arrive. In October and November, patients in Canterbury suffering from respected strokes had to wait well over two hours for their ambulance to arrive. In 2017, there was one report from the Folkestone area of a suspected stroke patients waiting over 5 hours for an ambulance to respond to their emergency call out.

Health chiefs in the area must take account of ambulance response times as part of their consultation into the reconfiguration of stroke services. With the ‘average’ patient from Blean, Whitstable, Herne Bay, Dover, Deal, Sandwich, the CT2 region of Canterbury and all of Thanet being unable to make the William Harvey Hospital within the ‘golden hour’ for stroke treatment, they must look again at how proposed provision can best accommodate successful outcomes for all. We are very worried that a Conservative government led cost-cutting agenda, imposing poor Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships on hospital trusts across the UK is putting money before lives.

See the full data set for Ambulance Response times in CT postcodes here:

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