Acute stroke unit is saving lives

Just some of the multidisciplinary team working in the acute stroke unit in University Hospital Crosshouse, led by Senior Charge Nurse, Christine Somerville (front row centre) and Lead Consultant for Stroke, Dr Sandy Ghosh (second row fifth from right).

Stroke patients in Ayrshire are reaping the benefits of the new acute stroke unit in University Hospital Crosshouse. The unit, which looks after seriously ill patients who have suffered acute stroke, was opened in November 2016 and is making a positive difference to the long-term outlook for patients.

In the past, patients were often taken to Glasgow for thrombolysis treatment. Now, patients presenting with a suspected stroke receive the first 48 to72 hours of their hyperacute care, including thrombolysis, at University Hospital Crosshouse.

Dr Sandy Ghosh, Lead Consultant for Stroke says: “The key to treating stroke is speed: the quicker we can start treatment, the better the outcome for patients. So, if we can start treatment within four and a half hours of onset of symptoms, the patient has a better chance of making a full recovery.

“When the hyperacute stage has passed, usually within 48 to 72 hours, the patient is then transferred to a stroke bed in Ayr or moved to an acute bed within the unit, or in some cases, to one of our rehabilitation units.”

The acute stroke unit is fully equipped with state of the art equipment, including a telemedicine system which allows the medical and nursing team to communicate with an acute stroke consultant 24 hours a day. The unit consists of 14 hyperacute beds, six acute beds, a four-bed rapid assessment room as well as an outpatient transient ischaemic attack (TIA) clinic, relatives’ room and Allied Health Professional (AHP) therapy room.

AHP staff deliver care to patient David Reid in the ward therapy room.

Christine Somerville, Senior Charge Nurse in the acute stroke unit, explains: “The rapid assessment unit and TIA clinic allows us to see patients quickly, monitor their symptoms, ensure rapid investigations to facilitate treatment where necessary. Patients are often discharged home the same day with secondary prevention in place to reduce the risk of stroke.

The multidisciplinary team use telemedicine to care for patient, Margaret Fisk.

“For patients who are suitable for thrombolysis, the telemedicine system allows the consultant to ‘see’ the patient at any time and make decisions on appropriate treatment. The consultant can undertake a neurological assessment, review brain imaging, speak to the patient and their family about treatment, as well as liaise with medical and nursing staff on the ward. A team approach is key and we have excellent support from ambulance, emergency department, combined assessment unit, radiology, laboratory, cardiology, nursing and general management teams, as well as a motivated and specialised AHP team.

“While some patients may find it strange at first that the consultant is seeing them from a TV screen in the ward, we find that they quickly get used to it and it means that they have better access to their consultant no matter what time of the day.”

Patients and families have been quick to praise the staff in the unit:

“Thanks to the skill of the consultant – not to mention the amazing clot-busting drug – my wife was able to walk out of Crosshouse a mere 75 hours later.”

“The staff are all amazing and genuinely care for patients. They looked after me and my family in my distressed state.”

“I received very good medical and personal treatment, administered in a professional and caring manner.”

In Ayrshire, there are more than 1,000 strokes or mini strokes every year. The FAST campaign aims to make the public more aware of the signs of stroke and the importance of starting treatment as soon as possible. There are four simple ways of recognising these signs:

F – Face: Can they smile? Does one side droop?

A – Arm: Can they lift both arms? Is one weak?

S – Speech: Is their speech slurred or muddled?

T – Time: To call 999

Dr Ghosh adds: “Stroke can happen to anyone of any age so if you see the signs and act FAST, you could save someone’s life.”

Outpatient clinic waiting area