STROKE patients in South Tyneside face one of the longest waits for a bed in the country, if they arrive at hospital outside normal working hours.
New figures show that people who are taken to South Tyneside District Hospital have to wait more than 14 hours – 852 minutes – before they are allocated a specialist stroke bed.
This compares with a national average of 200 minutes after 6pm or at weekends, according to figures from the Stroke Improvement National Audit Programme (SINAP) for July to September.
The hospital, in Harton Lane, South Shields, has the third-longest waiting time, behind Manchester Royal Infirmary, which has a 1,612-minute wait, and Kettering General Hospital, which has delays of 3,191 minutes.
Bosses at South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust (STFT) say they’ve already started to make changes which will benefit the 500 suspected stroke patients they see annually – of whom about 280 will later be confirmed.
Dr Jon Scott, the hospital’s consultant stroke physician, said: “This is an area which has already been highlighted by the trust where improvements need to be made.
“This includes a new bed management policy purely for stroke patients, which will improve out-of-hours bed availability on the unit and the provision of additional support and training for junior doctors to help improve their ability to recognise stroke in the early phases.
“We accept the figure needs to be significantly reduced. However, it is improving compared with the first three months of the year, when the time was 1,153 minutes.”
The hospital also has a low rate – eight per cent – of patients receiving a scan within the first hour of arriving.
The national average is 40 per cent.
Dr Scott says the time-scale is only important for a small proportion of patients who may need clot- busting treatment, have reduced consciousness or other needs.
He said: “Outside of these indications, and for the majority of stroke patients, a very urgent scan within one hour makes little or no difference to the long-term treatment or prognosis, compared to having a scan at two, three or four hours.
“The National Clinical Guidelines for stroke set a standard and monitoring target of undertaking a brain scan within 24 hours of every stroke patient.
“Against this national target, STFT performs at 88 per cent, which is just below, but not statistically significantly below, the national average.”
The trust does however, outperform the target when it comes to patients seeing a stroke consultant with 24 hours, with 92 per cent of people being assessed, compared with 84 per cent nationally.
Dr Scott said: “This is a function of there always being a stroke specialist consultant on site, Monday to Friday, 8am until 6pm, a stroke consultant on call with tele-medicine facilities at all times outside of these hours, and a weekend stroke rota in collaboration with Gateshead and Sunderland.
“New admissions at each trust are seen on Saturdays and Sundays as they would through the week.”
Eighty-three per cent of patients in South Tyneside were also given clot-busting drugs, compared with the national average of 69.
And 96 per cent of stroke patients had a continence plan drawn up within 72 hours, where applicable, compared with 81 per cent elsewhere.