Suffolk: A first class stroke service will be established in Suffolk

Dr Billy McKee

Dr Billy McKee - Credit: Archant

A specialist stroke service will be established in Suffolk after GP health bosses declared their aim to transform care for patients.

A Stroke Review Board met for the second time yesterday bringing together GPs from Ipswich and East Suffolk and West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) as well as the chief executives of Ipswich and West Suffolk hospitals and patient groups.

The CCGs told the East Anglian Daily Times they aim to transform stroke care in Suffolk by creating one team of doctors and nurses to work between Ipswich and West Suffolk Hospitals, delivering high-quality care seven days a week.

By creating the hyper acute service, it will mean patients having access to life-saving clot-busting drugs at their local hospital.

Currently the service is available five days a week.


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The move comes after a regional review saw an external body advise three options for the future of emergency stroke care – one of which suggested patients from Suffolk receive the clot-busting treatment in Colchester or Addenbrookes.

Felixstowe GP Dr Billy McKee, a member of the CCG governing body, said GPs used that advice as “a catalyst for debate rather than a directive to follow”.

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He said around 1,000 people suffer a stroke in Suffolk every year.

“The single most important medical advance in this area in recent times is the use of clot-busting drugs in the early stages and that has taken route as the way to go,” Dr McKee said.

“A small number of stroke patients require clot busting drugs and they have to be administered quickly.

“On an organisational side we had to look firstly at how you make sure the system is responsive at the beginning whenever clot-busting drugs are required and secondly when people get back on their feet during recovery.

“Most of our work has been looking at how to combine the front of the system, giving clot-busting drugs, with the back, getting people out of hospital in early supported discharge.

“To do that we are combining both stroke services at each hospital into a single functioning unit. Where at the moment there is five-day cover in the autumn after the changes there will be seven-day cover across both hospitals.

“There won’t be any change for patients, they will still be treated in their local hospital.”

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer welcomed the decision for patients in Ipswich and east Suffolk.

“This is magnificent news,” he said. “First for patients who will get a better service, a world-class service.

“Secondly for the hospital because it means again we have services coming to us rather than leaving. We are on our way to recreating a top-notch hospital, which is what we deserve.

“And thirdly for this is great news for the town. It shows if Ipswich and Suffolk fights for what it wants then we tend to win.”

Decision is ‘right for the people of Suffolk’

Alan Murray, portfolio holder for health at Suffolk County Council hailed the decision as the “right thing for the people of Suffolk”.

“This is what the people of Suffolk want, it is what the doctors of Suffolk want. The bottom line is the longer it takes to reach a specialist centre the more damage is done to a patient’s brain.

“But it is not just about the travel time to a HASU, it is also about having the first-class rehabilitation services at hand locally to ensure patients are given the best chance of a good recovery.

“This decision is the right thing for the people of Suffolk, full stop.

“We don’t want to see patients having to go to Colchester or Addenbrooke’s, it won’t work.”

Rob Mallinson, Ipswich Hospital’s medical director added: “By working together, we can see improved stroke services for patients. We want to adopt the national good practice, which would see people having a better recovery and patient experience following a stroke.

“The first three days after a stroke are the most important for patients to get specialist attention quickly to limit the brain damage caused. With this model, we would extend the current five day a week service to a seven day a week service to make sure that people have access to a stroke specialist.”

Dr Anne Nicolson, stroke consultant at West Suffolk Hospital, added: “This is great news for stroke patients across Suffolk and we are delighted to be working with Ipswich Hospital on this initiative.

“This is an improved stroke service for patients which will see them seen quickly and treated quickly.

“With this model, we are recruiting an extra stroke consultant and extra stroke specialist nurses.

“The quicker people get to hospital, the better it is for their recovery from a stroke - so having it essentially at the two ends of the county I think works in patients’ best interests.

“The most important thing for stroke patients if they have the slightest suspicion that they have a stroke, is to call an ambulance.”

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