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Dickson Voices Concern Over Stroke Unit Assessment Scores

East Antrim Alliance MLA, Stewart Dickson, has voiced concern over the findings of a recent assessment of stroke units at Antrim Area Hospital and Causeway Hospital.

Mr Dickson said: “Stroke-sufferers should get to a stroke unit as soon as possible - certainly within four hours of arriving at hospital – to limit the risk of long-term effects.

“Having been admitted to a stroke unit, patients may require thrombolysis, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, and speech therapy. Whatever treatments are required; patients deserve comprehensive care.”

Mr Dickson was speaking after the Sentinel Stroke National Audit Programme (SSNAP), produced an assessment of stroke units in Northern Ireland covering the first quarter of 2022. Antrim Area Hospital received a ‘D’ grade (several areas require improvement), whilst Causeway Hospital received a ‘C’ grade (reasonable overall – some areas require improvement).

Mr Dickson commented: “These grades are certainly cause for concern. Not least because the breakdown of the SSNAP’s assessment shows that admission to stroke units in both hospitals were graded ‘E’ and therefore require substantial improvement.

“Patients should spend at least 90% of their time in hospital on a stroke unit. This is because stroke units give the best care to stroke patients, which can save lives and reduce disability.

“In 10% of cases, stroke patients require thrombectomy, which is a game-changing treatment whereby doctors manually remove blot clots which are blocking arteries in the brain. This is a very time-sensitive treatment, devastatingly frustrated by delays in stroke unit admissions. At present, I understand that less than half of patients who require a thrombectomy in Northern Ireland, actually get one.”

Mr Dickson concluded by saying: “The SSNAP’s assessments are troubling, but the findings do not reflect solely on the stroke units of each hospital. Low performing scores may also reflect wider pressures on health and social care systems such as ambulance delays, A&E backlogs, lack of bed availability, and issues with patient throughput and discharge.

“Armed with the SSNAP’s report, and knowledge of the wider pressures within the healthcare system, I will be engaging with the Trust as a matter of urgency.”

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