Fears over West Sussex stroke treatments

SERIOUS concerns have been raised over a lack of 24-hour-a-day access to stroke treatments in West Sussex.

At a county council health and overview scrutiny committee meeting members heard the “clot-busting” thrombolysis drug is not available out of hours at anywhere in West Sussex, including Worthing Hospital.

Members heard there could also be problems transporting patients to specialist units.

This led to a public perception of “only have a stroke Monday to Friday, in working hours” and the loss of “vital time” to treat patients.

A report, considered by the committee, said 50 per cent of those who need thrombolysis would need out-of-hours treatment.

In the last year, 55 people received thrombolysis at Worthing and St Richard’s hospitals.

Out of county

Chairman Christine Field said: “If facilities are out of county, and the ambulance can’t take people to them, what confidence can we have in access to potentially life-saving services?”

Sarah Mulheron-Jones, deputy programme director of cardiac and stroke services for NHS West Sussex, said: “This is work we are doing at the moment. Services being set up are new.”

Dr Sharlin Ahmed, research liaison officer at The Stroke Association, said: “There is over-whelming evidence to suggest people who have had a stroke have a better outcome if it is treated as an emergency.”

She added “clot-busting” treatments needed to be administered within four hours of symptoms starting.

Improvement

The committee was told there had been some significant improvements in provision for stroke treatment.

Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust had seen almost a 30 per cent increase in patient time spent at a dedicated stroke unit, largely attributed to a new unit at St Richard’s and improvements to the stroke “pathway of care”.

Making its recommendations, however, the committee said there was a need for more public education on stroke prevention and recognition.

Howard Bloom, councillor, said: “We have got to get over the public perception of a stroke as ‘oh dear, not urgent’. It is as urgent as a heart attack.”