'People are still alive who wouldn't be' - Sunderland and South Tyneside health chiefs defend changes to stroke care as Pathway to Excellence continues

Improvements to stroke care following controversial reforms have been so great health chiefs have insisted they ‘couldn’t not have made them’.

Tuesday, 30th July 2019, 7:28 am
A raft of changes rolled out as part of the Path to Excellence scheme in Sunderland and South Tyneside have seen waiting times for specialist care slashed.

A raft of changes rolled out as part of the Path to Excellence scheme in Sunderland and South Tyneside have seen waiting times for specialist care slashed.

But as NHS leaders prepare for further overhauls in maternity and pediatrics to be introduced on August 5, council chiefs have continued to express doubts, particularly about how patients will access services.

“In the end, we had to focus on getting the best quality of care we could and we’re doing our best to mitigate the travel and transport issues people face,” said Matt Brown, director of operations at South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

From August 5, further changes under the first phase of the Path to Excellence are due to be implemented.

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“But we’re also making real progress and keeping people alive who otherwise wouldn’t have been kept alive.

“I believe very passionately that the improvements in stroke care have been of such substantial benefit we couldn’t have not made them.”

The overhaul saw all stroke care for patients in Sunderland and South Tyneside moved to Sunderland Royal Hospital in an attempt to improve access to specialist doctors and treatment.

In the case of South Tyneside, where patients once waited an average of 13 hours to see a stroke consultant, they now wait less than six hours and can expect a scan within 35 minutes.

From August 5, further changes under the first phase of the Path to Excellence are due to be implemented.

This will see the overnight closure of South Tyneside Hospital’s children’s A&E department and the opening of a midwife-led birthing unit.

Mr Brown was speaking at today’s meeting of Sunderland and South Tyneside councils’ Joint Health Committee, which last year put its concerns about the Path to Excellence to the government, although an independent panel later backed the scheme.

The joint committee however, which is expected to expand to include members of Durham County Council, said it plans to monitoring the progress of the reforms.

Coun Pat Hay said: “You haven’t given the assurances we need to sign it off, a lot of things we asked for haven’t been forthcoming – we need to work collectively to make this work.”

Stroke care improvements in numbers (pre and post consolidation of stroke care at Sunderland Royal Hospital):

Patients scanned within one hour – Pre change, South Tyneside 22 per cent; Sunderland 41 per cent – after change, 70 per cent Average time to a scan – Pre change, South Tyneside two hours; Sunderland one hour, 12 minutes – after change, 35 minutes Patients directly admitted to a stroke unit within four hours – Pre change, South Tyneside six per cent; Sunderland 72 per cent – after change, 74 per cent Patients who spent at least 90 per cent of their stay on a stroke unit – Pre change, South Tyneside 69 per cent; Sunderland 96 per cent – after change, 98 per cent Eligible patients given thrombolysis (clot busting drugs) – Pre change, South Tyneside nine per cent; Sunderland 63 per cent – after change, 85 per cent Average time to be assessed by a consultant stroke specialist – Pre change, South Tyneside 13 hours; Sunderland eight hours – after change, five hours 47 minutes

James Harrison