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Specialised stroke centres mean better outcomes for patients: BMA

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The Stroke Association welcomed the launch of the consultation (Peter Byrne/PA)

The Stroke Association welcomed the launch of the consultation (Peter Byrne/PA)

The Stroke Association welcomed the launch of the consultation (Peter Byrne/PA)

Stroke patients will have better outcomes under new proposals to reshape their care, according to the British Medical Association (BMA).

However, concerns have been expressed for patients in the west of Northern Ireland.

The Department of Health has announced plans to create specialised Hyperacute Stroke Units, offering 24/7 access to faster diagnosis and cutting-edge treatments.

Currently, there are eight acute hospitals routinely providing Thrombolysis to stroke patients, but the Department has opened a public consultation on six potential new models of care, with potential networks ranging from three Hyperacute Stroke Units to five.

It says the new network of Hyperacute stroke units will ensure that patients have access to the best possible care in regional centres of excellence no matter where they live or what time they are admitted.

Dr Tom Black, BMA NI council chair, said the new proposals will improve access.

He said: "We welcome these proposals from the Department to create specialised units for stroke services.

"It is vital that patients are able to access the most clinically appropriate service whenever they need it and the planned reorganisation of services should ensure that this happens.

"We know that for patients it may be worrying that services seem to be reducing. In reality, by reorganising services in this way, it improves access to treatment and ultimately means better outcomes."

SDLP health spokesman and Foyle MLA, Mark H Durkan, said the medical evidence supporting the proposal is irrefutable.

He said: "Whatever option or model is decided upon in terms of location of Hyperacute Units - and that is where media and public interest will be focused at this stage - we must not lose sight of the importance of aftercare and rehabilitation."

However, Ulster Unionist MLA, Rosemary Barton, said that under three of the six proposals, the South West Acute Hospital would be left without any stroke unit, something she finds unacceptable.

Ms Barton said "These proposals include a Hyperacute Stroke Unit at South West Acute Hospital (SWAH), but only in three of the six options, and in one of these three options, the SWAH unit is removed over a period of time.

"This trend towards centralisation ignores the fact that delays in reaching hospitals can contribute to preventable deaths, because of factors including time, distance and the conditions of some of our road network.

"Any suggestion to close the Stroke Unit at the South West Acute Hospital, with no consideration given to the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone, is ill-thought and completely unacceptable."

Belfast Telegraph