The Cumbria and Lancashire Telestroke network provides, for the first time, an out of hours Stroke Thrombolysis Service for nearly 2.2 million people across Cumbria and Lancashire, ensuring that all individuals who can benefit from stroke treatment to reduce disability and death, do so.
Prior to the implementation of this innovative service, each of the eight hospital sites involved, had an existing 9am – 5pm, Monday – Friday Stroke Thrombolysis Service available. NHS Cumbria and Lancashire turned to Virgin Media Business to help establish and implement an out of hours Telestroke service, ensuring that a 24/7 stroke service is deliverable across all of Cumbria and Lancashire.
- Organisation: Cumbria and Lancashire NHS
- Industry sector: Emergency Services
- Location: Cumbria and Lancashire
- Challenge: Improve care for patients showing signs of a stroke, to deliver quick treatment with the best chance of recovery. Solution A shared services initiative
- Products: IPVPN
- Benefits: Patient care has been transformed with faster, 24 hour diagnosis, allowing doctors to prescribe specialist medication earlier, reducing long-lasting side effects and saving lives
4,000 people across Cumbria and Lancashire suffer a stroke every year. But with the challenge of delivering specialist services to remote rural populations and the sharing of specialist stroke knowledge, Cumbria and Lancashire NHS was determined to find a way to close the geographic gap, and bring its patients the fast care they needed.
To counter symptoms of the stroke and reduce the chances of long-lasting damage, eligible patients need to receive the specialist clot busting agent, Thrombolysis, as soon as possible. Thrombolysis treatment can only be given to patients within four and a half hours of the onset of their stroke, so time is core to this treatment and Telestroke will help improve the speed of patient diagnosis.
But, while the treatment might sound straightforward, limited resources and large geographical areas affected the delivery of stroke services. The National Stroke Strategy (2007) issued quality standards for stroke care, which emphasised that hospitals who cared for stroke patients should provide a 24 hour, seven day a week thrombolysis service for acute ischaemic stroke. Each of the eight sites involved in Telestroke service had an existing 9am – 5pm, Monday – Friday Stroke Thrombolysis Service available. But, since the establishment of an operational Telestroke service, 24/7 Stroke Thrombolysis Service is now delivered across all of Cumbria and Lancashire.
Video conferencing technology provided the innovative solution that Cumbria and Lancashire NHS needed to help them bring expert care to stroke patients quickly. Working with Virgin Media Business, they created a secure remote video diagnosis service that would bring specialist care to patient’s bedsides – even if the doctor was on the other side of the county.
So, what’s the prognosis for the new service?
Secure, speedy diagnosis
Telestroke is already saving lives through ‘virtual’ consultations by specialist doctors. Using digital video conferencing via a secure router in the consultant’s home, the doctor links up with a live video and audio conference system, in the hospital, where they can see and speak to the patient, right from their bedside. The consultant will then be able to ask the patient questions and perform an examination with the help of the local team to decide whether the new symptoms have been due to a stroke and whether Thrombolysis treatment is appropriate.
Dr Mark O’Donnell, Stroke Consultant at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and Clinical Lead for the Cumbria & Lancashire Cardiac and Stroke Network, said: “We are using this new technology to take the stroke specialists to the patient, rather than moving the patient long distances, around rural areas, to where the specialists work. In an acute stroke, time is of the essence and the sooner treatment can be provided, the better.”
Over time, this faster diagnosis will make a lasting difference. Cumbria and Lancashire NHS estimates that with Telestroke, 24 more patients will survive a stroke each year, 40 are expected to recover with no symptoms or significant disabilities and 30 less patients will require full-time care.
Delivering care consistency
With the new service up and running in eight major hospitals across the region, Telestroke is standardising care across Cumbria and Lancashire.
"To make this pioneering vision a reality, it was critical for us to invest in the right technology,” said Gus Hartley, Head of North West SIS at NHS North West. “Virgin Media Business is the only provider that could deliver the complete package that we needed, to give our doctors the tools they require to diagnose patients remotely. As a result, we’re in a position to meet some of the challenges our medical staff face and deliver high quality, cutting edge healthcare that will benefit both our patients and our staff.”
Gus, added: “Even patients in smaller, more remote hospitals will have access to the same specialist care – no matter where they are!”
Cutting costs in the community
The Telestroke service is transforming and improving the diagnosis and treatment of all stroke patients in Cumbria and Lancashire by providing 24/7 Thrombolysis treatment. In addition to huge patient benefits, the service is also expected to save the NHS over £8 million a year with after-stroke care expected to dramatically reduce making great savings in local community social care.
Kathy Blacker, Director of the Cumbria and Lancashire Cardiac and Stroke Network, that coordinated the implementation of Telestroke, said: “By pooling our resources and taking advantage of new technologies, we can now ensure that every suitable stroke patient gets this fantastic treatment, wherever they are in the region and whenever their stroke hits.
“By embracing technology and modernising our approach to treatment we’re generating substantial cost savings while focusing on what we’re here to do – provide quality care for our patients.”
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