Councillors have raised concerns about proposals to cut treatment for stroke patients from three hospitals in Kent and Medway.

A joint taskforce of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) covering Kent, Medway, Bexley and East Sussex said the proposals could save 15 lives in the county if services are offered at three hospitals instead of the current six.

The report, presented at the Kent and Medway joint health overview and scrutiny committee meeting on Monday (January 22), states “specialist stroke resources are spread too thinly and most hospitals do not meet national standards and best practice ways of working”.

The committee heard that more than a third of stroke patients in the area are not getting brain scans in time and half of patients are not getting clot busting drugs in time, the report claims.

Doctor Mike Gill from Kent and Medway Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) said: “The case for change is palpable because the services are unable to provide modern stroke services, which is the immediate response to someone who has a stroke.

“You currently have six out of the seven hospitals providing acute stroke services - but this is unsustainable in terms of providing the type of care required for acute patient.

“That’s 24/7 availability of expertise and to do that you would have to have a workforce that is unaffordable and also unrecruitable.”

He added: “As seen in London, the evidence shows [if this goes ahead] there will be a 5% reduction in mortality, that would equate to about 15 lives saved in Kent and Medway.”

Services in Darent Valley Hospital, Tunbridge Wells Hospital in Pembury, Maidstone General Hospital, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital, William Harvey Hospital and Medway Maritime Hospital are on the line.

The STP has narrowed the proposal down to five options and William Harvey Hospital featured in all variations.

Michael Ridgewell from the STP told the committee that William Harvey had been selected after an analysis of services in east Kent.

“This is a public consultation and no decision has been made yet.”

He added: “This is not about saving money, this is about spending more money. The quality benefit, justifies that investment.”

During the meeting in Maidstone, councillors from Kent, Medway and Bexley shared their concerns that ambulance services are not up to the task of transporting patients in time.

Stroke patients can almost double their chances of survival and avoiding long-term brain damage if they arrive at hospital and receive treatment within 60 minutes - dubbed the “golden hour”.

Cllr James Hunt from Bexley Council said: “Travel times are important. Strokes are an incredibly serious thing to be done and dealt with quickly.

“We have all lost people through strokes and for us in Bexley, we have no hospital, no resources, so this is important for us.”

KCC Cllr Ken Pugh said: “I’m concerned about the travel times. My residents in the east end of the Isle of Sheppey would take almost 20 minutes to get off the island, even with the blue light flashing.”

Patricia Davies from NHS Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley Clinical Commissioning Group assured councillors that the STP had worked alongside the ambulance service during the four-year review.

She said: “Under this plan, 98% of the population within 60 minutes would be able to get to a hospital and have the clot busting drug within two hours - the optimal time.

“We have been working very closely with the ambulance service and they have provided us with data detailed maps on travel times - during peak and off peak times.”

Another challenge to the current service for stroke patients is staffing and Dr Mike Gills told those in the council chamber that with improvements to services at three hospitals, it is predicted that this will attract more specialists to join the workforce.