Campaign: Controversial proposal to relocate emergency stroke care out of Suffolk ‘could cost lives’, warning

Linda and Michael O'Brien are pictured at their home in Brantham. Linda suffered a stroke in 2011 an

Linda and Michael O'Brien are pictured at their home in Brantham. Linda suffered a stroke in 2011 and is supporting the EADT save our stroke services campaign. - Credit: Archant

SAVE our stroke units.

That is the cry today as the East Anglian Daily Times launches the Save Our Stroke Care campaign after it emerged patients who suffer a stroke in Suffolk could have to travel out of the county to receive emergency treatment under controversial plans.

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 hyper acute stroke units (HASU), considered the gold standard of stroke care.

Instead, the estimated 1,300 patients who suffer a stroke in Suffolk each year, would have to 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 held up as an example of excellence to the rest of the region.

As part of the review, which began in July, an Expert External Advisory Group is understood to be set to suggest three possible options for the future of stroke care in the county:

• HASUs, providing emergency treatment, at Addenbrookes and Colchester with acute services, providing rehabilitation, at Ipswich and West Suffolk hospitals

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

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

One senior health 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 CCG or West Suffolk CCG.

A 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 is 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.”

That strategic statement states: “We will commission HASU and acute stroke services from both Ipswich Hospital and West Suffolk Hospital.

“We expect to commission a collaborative model of acute care with stroke consultants working between the two hospitals, supported by telemedicine, to provide 24-hour cover seven days a week.”

On November 11, 2011 Linda O’Brien suffered a stroke.

Within an hour-and-a-half, Mrs O’Brien had received life-saving emergency treatment at Ipswich Hospital.

Her husband Michael, 64, told The Star, it is “vital” the HASU at Ipswich Hospital is retained.

Mr O’Brien, of Church Lane, Brantham said: “Their (Ipswich) stroke services are exemplary.

“By the time I got to the hospital, Linda had already had her brain scan.

“The team were ready at the doors of A&E for her. She immediately had a scan which is absolutely essential in determining what kind of stroke someone has had and how best to treat it.

“Within an hour-and-a-half Linda had received the treatment she needed.

“Any further to travel and it could have been a very different story.

“I do not understand why anyone would even entertain the idea of getting rid of Ipswich’s HASU. I am a retired accountant so I do understand that it is better to have fewer specialist centres of excellence but it is vital they are in the right place for patients.

“The team at Ipswich are absolutely brilliant. I will be lobbying my MP on the issue.”

A Suffolk MP has warned failures on the part of the ambulance service to hit response time targets exacerbate concerns over suggestions emergency stroke care could be lost in Suffolk.

Suffolk Coastal MP Dr Therese Coffey, said recent figures revealed fewer than 40% of stroke patients reach a hyper acute stroke unit (HASU) at hospital within an hour – well below the target of 62%.

She said: “I would be very worried about adding significantly to journey times for stroke patients in Suffolk.

“We have a high elderly population, particularly in east Suffolk, and I would be very concerned about these facilities being moved further away.”

The East of England Ambulance Service Trust this week failed a Care Quality Commission inspection.

Inspectors raised concerns about a consistent failure to hit response times, especially in rural areas of Suffolk and Norfolk.

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