Stroke meetings ‘flawed’, says MP

Stroke meetings ‘flawed’, says MP

10 July 2019

AN appeal has been issued to health chiefs to halt the ongoing public consultation the future of stroke services.

At a public meeting in Newry last week, those in attendance labelled the current consultation process — which included a meeting in Downpatrick three weeks ago — as “flawed”.

The view is shared by South Down MP Chris Hazzard. 

He said the community had raised huge concerns about the consultation process on the future of stroke services, arguing that its outcome was “predetermined” and offered no workable proposals for the people of South Down.

The MP has also accused the Department of Health of “failing to understand” the geography of the area and consider a north-south option for the future of stroke services.

Architects of the future direction of travel are proposing the provision of a new network of so-called hyperacute stroke units, with health officials insisting that this will ensure patients have access to the best possible care in regional centres of excellence.

However, none of these new units will be in the South Down area.

Mr Hazzard said concerns around the predetermined nature of the ongoing consultation, which ends on August 2, has “severely undermined public confidence” in the process.

The MP declared: “It should now be halted as it does not offer any suggestions that would improve health outcomes for people in the area.

”It is essential that any plans to reshape stroke services must be carried out in a regionally balanced way, in partnership with those who use and deliver services and with the objective of improved health outcomes for patients at its heart.

“The proposal to locate a hyperacute unit in Craigavon doesn’t make sense. The Craigavon catchment area is 15 to 20 minutes from the Royal Hospital in Belfast, whilst Newry’s Daisy Hill serves an isolated population in South Down and South Armagh.”

Mr Hazzard says the location of the Newry hospital could also ensure stroke services would  be available on a cross-border basis and that should be an option in any consultation.

Last month, the Down Community Health Committee argued a case for the Downe Hospital in Downpatrick to play an important role in the new model of stroke care.

Members say the hospital could be used as a so-called step down facility to provide patients with essential rehabilitation services to assist their recovery.

Campaigners have also voiced concern that the proposed new model of care is based on care pathways being offered in the cities of London and Manchester, arguing that there is no convincing evidence that this proposal will work well in a rural setting.

In addition, the health group’s members say that given what they describe as the “appalling inadequacy” of ambulance provision across the Province, particularly locally and the area’s roads infrastructure, it is clear that what is proposed could not possibly meet the needs of the community in the East Down area stretching from Strangford to Newcastle, into the Mournes and over to Ballynahinch. 

Campaigners say it is obvious that what is being suggested could not possibly meet the needs of the local community at this time, expressing concern about the new stroke service delivery’s reliance on a close relationship with the Air Ambulance.

Health group members say while this is an extremely valuable resource which is already making an enormous contribution in saving lives  it is run by a charity, not by the State.

Campaigners say a reliance on air ambulance support for the new service could hardly be described as “ideal”.