Improvements to treatment of stroke patients in Norfolk

Dan GrimmerStroke patients were today reassured of 'significant improvements' in services to ensure better and faster treatment.Dan Grimmer

Stroke patients were today reassured of 'significant improvements' in services to ensure better and faster treatment.

A series of measures have already been put in place in Norfolk to ensure people who have suffered a stroke are immediately aware of symptoms, can access help straight away and are treated with clot-busting drugs as early as possible.

Health bosses were speaking as a new report from the National Audit Office (NAO) showed access to brain scans and drugs needed after strokes were limited on weekends and evenings.

Guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) says patients suffering a stroke should be immediately admitted to specialised units so they receive specialist care.

Nationwide, the number of patients spending more than 90pc of their hospital stay on such a unit has risen, to 59pc in 2008 from 51pc in 2006, but only 17pc of stroke patients reached the stroke unit within four hours of their arrival at hospital - the time period in which the care is most beneficial, according to the report.

NHS Norfolk has recently invested significantly into improving stroke services recently, including �8m for a new purpose-built 24-bed stroke rehabilitation unit based at Norwich Community Hospital, which opened in January.

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Dr Kneale Metcalf, consultant physician at the N&N, said since the specialist stroke service was set up, care had been 'vastly improved'.

He said: 'Everyone who arrives at hospital with a suspected stroke is met by a specialist stroke alert nurse, who will arrange a CT scan to see if thrombolysis (clot busting) treatment is appropriate.

'We are able to offer this service 24 hours a day, including weekends. About 75pc of our patients receive a scan within 24 hours; a major improvement over the last year. With the recent investment in new CT scanners there is hope this will increase further.

'We have worked closely with the ambulance service to make sure patients receive a quick transfer to our stroke service.'

The new unit is expected to help hundreds of patients every year, who will benefit from services aimed at helping them to recover from the effects of stroke.