Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Trust defends ‘modernising of stroke services’

Ahead of Saturday’s rally, the Southern Trust continued to defend proposals to centralise stroke services in Craigavon.  In an unprecedented move, the Trust released flyers highlighting what it believes to be the  “facts” and “fiction” regarding the controversial issue.

The flyer describes as “fiction” the belief that Newry and Mourne residents who have suffered a stroke will be taken straight to the new stroke unit in Craigavon Area Hospital, stating that in “fact” Newry and Mourne stroke patients will receive a “clot busting drug” in Daisy Hill’s Emergency Department if appropriate before being transferred to Craigavon.

The poster goes on to say that stroke patients from the district who require continued in-patient rehabilitation can be transferred back to Daisy Hill Hospital and claims that clinical evidence shows stroke patients are 25% more likely to survive or recover if treated in a specialised centre.

It states as “fact” that the new Stroke Unit in Craigavon “will be dedicated to achieving levels of therapy and staffing outlined in national guidelines” and that this level of care is not currently available to Daisy Hill stroke patients.

It also highlights that none of the Southern Trust Hospitals, including Daisy Hill have met national standards and guidelines for stroke care and claims that “two thirds of Trust stroke patients are already admitted to Craigavon.”

The leaflet also says it is “inappropriate” to compare average length of stay as “the difference in stroke service delivery does not allow for a direct comparison of length of stay between the two services” and adds that a 20 week public consultation held last year included  “33 separate meetings with every major political party, every Council and other interested groups.”

Dr John Simpson, Medical Director of the Southern Trust, also spoke out in defence of the proposed changes to stokes services.  Speaking to Q radio ahead of the ‘Save Our Services’ rally on Saturday, Dr Simpson said the changes were a “modernisation of stroke services” and emphasised that it was a medically led initiative which was “not a cutback” and “not a threat to Daisy Hill.”

The doctor described the initial “clot busting treatment” received in Daisy Hill as “world standard” and said it would remain at the hospital but argued that “modern medicine is best delivered through a network of services” as opposed to within one hospital.

When asked about the logistics of lengthy ambulance journeys and waiting times for rural patients, Dr Simpson said “time spent in ambulances will not interfere with the outcome of stroke.  That’s a medical opinion and that’s how this is being led and we as clinicians are all in agreement with the proposal.”

Speaking about Saturday’s rally the Medical Director said he fully supported the right to protest but felt the public “were hitting the wrong mark” and needed to protest about the overall cuts to the money needed for the health service instead. He reiterated however that “even if we got all the money we needed from the government we would still be modernising services in this way.”