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Cut in brain injury beds will hurt patients: stroke charity

The director of The Stroke Association Northern Ireland has said cutting the number of brain injury beds at the Royal Victoria Hospital could “seriously affect” patients’ recovery.

A row has erupted after the Belfast Trust cut the number of beds at Northern Ireland’s main neurology unit by 30% — without consultation.

Dr Jim Morrow, the unit’s lead neurologist, has warned the move could have catastrophic consequences for people who suffer a stroke at the weekend or in the evening.

In Northern Ireland, about 4,000 people a year suffer strokes and 1,500 are left with long-term disabilities. The unit also treats patients with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, motor neurone disease and epilepsy.

Tom Richardson, director of the brain injury charity, said: “The Stroke Association is very concerned about these bed reductions which can only mean that patients who need this very complex service will not all receive it in the specialised unit required.

“The current Northern Ireland Stroke Strategy has already experienced drastic cuts from £6m to £1.75m.

“With the most recent statistics showing that approximately 800 to 900 people suffering from stroke are admitted to Belfast Trust hospitals each year, any reductions in bed capacity will have

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a significant negative impact on the future of stroke services not only in Belfast but across Northern Ireland. It will also seriously affect the process of rehabilitation for stroke survivors.”

However, Belfast Trust has insisted it is committed to providing safe, high-quality service to patients. But it has stressed this must be achieved in the most cost effective manner.

“We have embarked on a process of modernisation to ensure we are making the best use of all our resources in order to improve the patient’s journey,” a spokeswoman said.

“As part of this process we benchmarked a range of services — including neurology — with comparable peer Trusts in England. We also analysed data about our services.

“This demonstrated that our current in-patient neurology service could be delivered with a smaller number of beds — 16 instead of the previous 23.

“The aim of the modernisation programme is to develop a more efficient and responsive service with reduced length of inpatient stays that will enable the same level of inpatient activity to be provided with a reduced number of beds.”

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