TWO Suffolk hospitals have pledged to work together to ensure stroke patients receive the highest level of care, it can be revealed.

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As part of the ongoing NHS Midlands and East Stroke Review health bosses have this week outlined their four preferred options for future services in the county.

Fears have been raised that either Ipswich Hospital and West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds could be at risk of losing their hyper-acute stroke unit (HASU) – a gold standard of care – as a result of the review.

The project aims to increase survival rates, improve quality by reducing disability and recovery times and improve patient experience, by creating specialist centres.

At Wednesday’s NHS Suffolk board meeting eight options were suggested to health bosses – with four shortlisted:

n For Ipswich and West Suffolk to retain their HASU but work independently of each other;

n For Ipswich and West Suffolk to retain their HASU but work together or with another hospital;

n For Ipswich to retain its HASU and acute service but West Suffolk to be left with no stroke service;

n And for West Suffolk to retain its HASU and acute service and Ipswich to be left with no stroke service.

The report states: “Financial analysis has shown that it is not viable to maintain acute only stroke services, without the hyper-acute element.

“It is also impractical as the hospital would be unable to recruit sufficient stroke specialist consultants to sustain care to the standards required.”

At yesterday’s Ipswich Hospital board meeting, interim chief executive Nigel Beverley vowed the trust was committed to working with West Suffolk to ensure patients receive the best service.

He said: “There have been numerous discussions with our commissioners and West Suffolk Hospital. Working together is our clear intention.”

Stephen Graves, chief executive of the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, added: “Our aim has always been to retain a full stroke service for our patients.

“As such, we have been looking at the changes we would need to make to continue to meet the standards required for a hyper-acute stroke unit.

“Our preferred option is to increase investment in our staff while also working in partnership with a neighbouring hospital to develop joint on-call arrangements and weekend working.

“NHS Suffolk has been leading discussions with ourselves and Ipswich Hospital to progress this proposal which, if approved as part of the wider regional review, would allow both hospitals to retain hyper-acute stroke units.”

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