Suffolk: Stroke care changes ‘alarming and ill-judged’ says health minister

Care home provider seeks operations manager

Care home provider seeks operations manager - Credit: PA

A HEALTH minister and Suffolk MP has branded controversial proposals for the future stroke care at the county’s hospitals “alarming and ill-judged”.

Dr Dan Poulter said the idea the county could be left without a hyper acute stroke unit (HASU) is not only damaging to patient care but branded it “bad medicine” and contrary to the Department of Health guidelines regarding changing services.

The NHS Midlands and East Stroke Review, launched in July, is expected to recommend three options for the future of care in Suffolk:

n HASUs, providing emergency care, at Addenbrooke’s and Colchester with acute services, providing rehabilitation, at Ipswich and West Suffolk

n A HASU at Ipswich with acute services at Colchester and West Suffolk

n HASUs at Ipswich and Colchester with an acute service at West Suffolk

Dr Poulter, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP said: “There is evidence that if patients are treated at for strokes at more specialist centres then the outcomes, both in terms of survival and also the speed of recovery - the ability to regain speech and movement, for example - for patients is better.

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“However we also know for strokes caused by a blood clot in the brain, timely and effective treatment saves lives and also preserves bodily function, stopping the stroke from progressing and becoming more severe.

“The ability of a patient to use their hand, arm or leg again following a stroke is more likely to be preserved if a stroke is treated as quickly as possible.

“So it is important people have timely access to a brain scan and clot busting treatment, offered at an emergency centre.

“I would think any idea that we would lose that ability, to treat people locally for emergency stroke should be a non-starter for health bosses.

“Because clearly the ability to treat someone promptly and effectively is massively compromised if that patient has had to travel long distances for treatment.

“The quality of ambulance transfers has to be a consideration and the ambulance service is not fit for purpose. It would not be in the interests of patients and it would be bad medicine to move stroke services out of Suffolk.

“The Department of Health states for any service reorganisation like this that four tests have to be met. One is that any change has to deliver high-quality patient care.

“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. That fact means we have to have a specialist centre at Ipswich Hospital.

“The idea of creating HASUs in Addenbrooke’s and Colchester and leaving Suffolk without one is not just alarming but ill-judged and inviable medically.

“As a doctor, as a health minister and as a local MP I think that option is flawed as it can only damage patient care for people living in east Suffolk.”

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer added his support to the EADT campaign, Save Our Stroke Services.

He vowed to fight “tooth and nail” to ensure an emergency centre is set up at Ipswich Hospital.

“A report by Suffolk LINk has shown a really considerable improvement in patient experience of stroke services,” he said.

“This is very concerning, especially with an ageing population and the newly acquired stroke facility at Ipswich.

“I have consistently heard of very bad experiences from stroke patients who have been treated at Colchester. I think it is lunacy to consider the option that Ipswich and Suffolk should lose emergency stroke care.

“I will fight tooth and nail to keep services in Ipswich.”

An NHS Suffolk spokeswoman said health chiefs are committed to creating a HASU service in Suffolk.

She said both Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and West Suffolk CCG – who will take over from the primary care trust on April 1 – have signed up to a strategic statement.

She added that no decisions have been made and the CCGs are waiting for the final suggestions from NHS Midlands and East. Under the EEAG criteria neither Addenbrooke’s Colchester, Ipswich and West Suffolk hospitals are HASUs at the moment.

The 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, support by telemedicine, to provide 24-hour cover seven days a week.”

While the aim is to see a HASU established in Suffolk, before any decision can be made the CCGs will have to see evidence from both hospitals that they can meet the requirements necessary to become a HASU.

We have launched the Save our Stroke Services campaign in response to the review.

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