Colchester: Assurance hospital can manage stroke care load

Colchester Hospital

Colchester Hospital - Credit: Peter Lawson/Eastnews

HUNDREDS of emergency stroke patients could be transferred to Colchester General Hospital if controversial plans are given the go-ahead.

Demands on the hospital are set to increase if commissioners choose to remove emergency stroke services in neighbouring Suffolk, but bosses say they can expand the care to meet the needs of additional patients.

It has been revealed that urgent stroke patients could have to travel to Colchester or Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge if hyper acute stroke units (HASUs) are not established at Ipswich and West Suffolk hospitals.

The EADT has launched the Save Our Stroke Services campaign after it emerged that the NHS Midlands and East Stroke Review is considering three options for the future of stroke care in Suffolk - including downgrading services to provide rehabilitation but not emergency treatment.

The remaining options, expected to be recommended by an Expert External Advisory Group (EEAG), are for emergency care to stay at Ipswich with acute services at Colchester and West Suffolk in Bury St Edmunds, or for HASUs at Ipswich and Colchester hospitals with acute services at West Suffolk.

The Care Quality Commission has reported that Colchester is failing to meet expected standards in patient dignity and risk management. But bosses are confident they can meet emergency care demand after an NHS review recommended the hospital be one of three in Essex to house hyper acute stroke units.

Colchester was named along with Southend and Chelmsford hospitals as proposed specialist centres for Essex, while Basildon Hospital would be changed from a hyper acute stroke unit to an acute stroke unit.

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It would mean specialists who treat patients within 72 hours of their suffering a stroke would only be at Colchester General, Southend and Chelmsford’s Broomfield hospitals.

In the National Stroke Audit, published in December last year by the Royal College of Physicians, Colchester’s stroke unit was in the top 10% nationally.

In 2011/12 more than 600 patients were admitted to the unit, which opened in 2004 and was extended three years ago at a cost of £1.4million. Nick Chatten, special projects director at Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, said the unit had performed “strongly” and added: “An additional stroke consultant – our fourth – will join us later in the spring.

“If commissioners decide that patients from Suffolk will come to us in the future, we would need to provide more specialist medical, nursing and therapy staff, together with more beds and equipment.

“Physically, there is sufficient space at the hospital for an expansion of the service which would be funded for by the extra income generated by treating patients from outside our current catchment area of north east Essex.”

But junior health minister and Suffolk MP Dr Dan Poulter branded the controversial proposals “alarming and ill-judged”.

Dr Poulter, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP, said: “While it is a fact specialist centres do improve patient outcomes, having to travel long distances to a specialist centre is not good for patient outcomes.”