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Ipswich: Emergency stroke care could be transferred out of county – leaving patients facing journeys of up to an hour

PUBLISHED: 15:19 22 March 2013 | UPDATED: 17:12 22 March 2013

Linda and Michael O'Brien are pictured at their home in Brantham. Linda suffered a stroke in 2011 and is supporting the EADT / Star's save our stroke services campaign.

Linda and Michael O'Brien are pictured at their home in Brantham. Linda suffered a stroke in 2011 and is supporting the EADT / Star's save our stroke services campaign.

Archant

PATIENTS who suffer a stroke in Suffolk could be taken out of the county for emergency life-saving treatment under controversial proposals, it emerged today.

Factfile

– The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines state that “all people with suspected acute stroke are transferred immediately by ambulance to a hospital with access to a 24-hour seven-day-a-week acute stroke service that can provide a stroke triage system, expert clinical assessment, timely imaging and intravenous thrombolysis”.

– A HASU can provide immediate access to a brain scan – vital in determining what type of stroke someone has suffered.

– If a patient has suffered a stroke as a result of a blood clot they require intravenous thrombolysis as soon as possible but within three hours for the best chance of recovery.

– If a patient has suffered a stroke as a result of a bleed they do not need thrombolysis.

– The type if stroke a patient has suffered can only be determined by a brain scan, hence the importance of reaching a HASU as quickly as possible.

– An acute stroke service provides rehabilitation for stroke patients.

– Once treated at a HASU a patient is transferred back to their nearest acute service to continue their recovery.

One senior health source said if the measures were introduced, they had the potential to “cost lives”.

The NHS Midlands and East Stroke Review is understood to be considering three options for Suffolk – one would see Ipswich Hospital and West Suffolk Hospital lose their emergency hyper acute stroke units (HASU), considered the gold standard of stroke care.

If that happened, the estimated 1,300 patients who suffer a stroke in Suffolk each year would be taken by ambulance to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridgeshire or Colchester Hospital.

The threat comes a year after Ipswich Hospital’s stroke service was heralded as an example of excellence to the rest of the region.

And it comes 12 months after The Star’s Have a Heart campaign, launched after Ipswich lost out in a similar review to move emergency heart attack care to the Norfolk and Norwich, Papworth and Basildon hospitals, secured victory in bringing a new elective heart centre to Ipswich Hospital.

The review into stroke services began in July. An Expert External Advisory Group (EEAG) is understood to have suggested three possible options:

• HASUs, providing emergency treatment, at Addenbrooke’s and Colchester with acute services, providing rehabilitation, at Ipswich and West Suffolk hospitals.

• A HASU at Ipswich with acute services at Colchester and West Suffolk hospitals.

• HASUs at Ipswich and Colchester with an acute service at West Suffolk Hospital.

One source said the option of removing HASUs from both Ipswich and West Suffolk hospitals “could cost lives”.

He said: “Both Addenbrooke’s and Colchester have worse clinical outcomes for patients from what I have seen.

“That option would be to the detriment of Suffolk patients.

“We cannot lose our emergency stroke service in Suffolk, speed is of the essence when someone has a stroke, any unnecessary delays could cost lives.”

The group has not yet formally recommended the options to the Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) or West Suffolk CCG.

An NHS Suffolk spokesman said: “A number of options have been considered and a strategic statement was agreed at a public board meeting of NHS Suffolk in January.

“Our proposals have been reviewed by an expert advisory group and we are awaiting final feedback from the Stroke Network.

“The CCGs want to do what is best for Suffolk residents. Clinicians want to see improvements in stroke services and we will consider all evidence and views available on how to do this. This obviously includes speaking to local people and no changes will be made without involvement of patients and the public.”

n What do you think of the proposals? Write to health reporter Lizzie Parry at Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or alternatively you can send an email to lizzie.parry@archant.co.uk


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