Stroke patients face travelling miles for care in NHS shake-up

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HUNDREDS of seriously-ill stroke patients face travelling further for emergency treatment under a shake-up of care in the region.

More than 300 people suffering from strokes in the Harrogate district each year will bypass their local hospital for specialist treatment in Leeds or York during the crucial first 72 hours after they fall ill.

The changes are part of a major initiative by NHS chiefs in West Yorkshire, Craven and Harrogate to “urgently” address differences in stroke care depending on where people live. About 4,000 patients suffer strokes across the area each year, including 300 in Harrogate.

About two-thirds of patients from Harrogate will be transferred to Leeds General Infirmary and remaining numbers to hospital in York under the changes planned next year.

Similar moves to centre emergency stroke care in larger units are also being put in place in South Yorkshire as part of a national drive to cut the toll of death and disability from the illness.

In a joint statement, NHS officials in Harrogate said evidence showed people were likely to have better outcomes in hyper acute stroke units treating at least 600 patients a year, even if they had to travel further for treatment.

David Scullion, the medical director at Harrogate NHS Trust, and GP Bruce Willoughby, from NHS Harrogate clinical commissioning group (CCG), released a joint statement saying: “The stroke unit at Harrogate District Hospital does not meet this threshold, nor is it ever likely to. Ensuring the continued sustainable provision of high-quality patient care is the single focus of both the CCG and the trust.”

Patients would be taken by ambulance directly to Leeds or York to make sure their treatment is “both timely and effective”.

“Patients will be transferred back to Harrogate District Hospital as soon as possible after initial treatments or discharged home and will receive their ongoing rehabilitation care locally,” the statement said.

A report for NHS chiefs in West Yorkshire, Craven and Harrogate, which is due to be agreed tomorrow, said improvements in stroke care had been made in recent years, but differences remained which needed to be “urgently” addressed. In future, it said hyper acute stroke services will be centred on hospitals in Bradford, Halifax, Wakefield and Leeds.

In changes designed to improve stroke care, patients requiring urgent or emergency treatment will be given access to the same seven-day service. More patients will be assessed by stroke specialists within 24 hours. In addition, the report said more work was aimed at preventing 200 strokes over three years caused by a condition which leads to a fast erratic heartbeat. NHS leaders hope to detect nine in 10 patients with atrial fibrillation.