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North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust - 70 years of the NHS


Home > News > Telehealth highlighted on World Stroke Day

Telehealth highlighted on World Stroke Day

Posted on Monday 29th October 2012
dr paul davies

Dr Paul Davies

Stroke is the third largest cause of adult death in England, directly effecting 152,000 people each year. As soon a patient has a stroke, doctors have less than 4.5 hours to decide whether clot-busting drug thrombolysis is a suitable treatment, and administer it.

With time incredibly tight, it’s essential that patients have access to specialist treatment regardless of location or whether it’s a weekday or out of hours. Fortunately more people are surviving stroke every year thanks to the next generation of telehealth services.

Telehealth services are not only improve the patient’s prognosis; they help NHS Trusts to provide more effective treatment, 24/7, and for less money. Lancashire and Cumbria’s Cardiac and Stroke Network is saving the NHS £8 million a year and has treated 167 people in the last year with lifesaving thrombolysis. When Stroke costs the NHS £8.2 billion every year, just think of the benefits that could be delivered by a countrywide scheme. 

To mark World Stroke Day, experts in the telestroke concept share their thoughts on the potential that telehealth presents:

Kathy Blacker, Director of the Cumbria and Lancashire Cardiac and Stroke Network said: “The reality is that patient care isn’t a 9 to 5 job. When it comes to stroke victims every single second counts, that’s why we worked with Virgin Media Business to develop a network that enables consultants to diagnose and prescribe the right drugs to patients via HD video conferencing. Whilst telehealth doesn’t replace direct patient care, it offers a very real alternative for patients needing treatment fast."

"The service removes any barriers to quick treatment, such as travel times or out of hours care. A consultant can conduct an assessment remotely and prescribe the right drugs to get the patient on the road to recovery quicker than ever before.”

Lee Hull, director, public sector, Virgin Media Business said: “Innovation is a term often used but when it saves lives the term has real meaning. Getting to the right diagnosis as quickly as humanly possible is the number one priority for any NHS Trust. Whilst telehealth won’t replace direct patient care, technology like telestroke is enabling patients to interact with doctors out of hours and from remote locations, making sure that geographical barriers or service availability don’t stop patients receiving the specialist care they need. Cumbria and Lancashire NHS Trust is a really successful example of this. The Trust has been able to deliver better frontline services that have an impact on real people.”

Dr Paul Davies, Elderly Care Consultant at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle said: “Thrombolysis is an effective clot dissolving treatment for the type of stroke caused by a blood clot if given soon after the onset of symptoms. However, thrombolysis can carry a risk of bleeding and potentially make the stroke worse in some individuals; therefore the decision to give or withhold thrombolysis needs to be carefully weighed-up by an experienced consultant.

"Telestroke has enabled patients with stroke to obtain an opinion from an experienced stroke consultant outside of normal working hours.  Telestroke in Cumbria and Lancashire has enabled over 150 patients to receive thrombolysis since the service started.

"Thrombolysis treatment can only be given to patients within four-and-a-half hours of the onset of their stroke so time is critical to providing this treatment.  The sooner treatments can be provided, the better the outcome for patients. Anybody that develops new Facial weakness, new Arm weakness and/or new Speech disturbance should follow the advice of the FAST test and dial 999.”

Joe Korner, director of communications for Stroke Association says: “Stroke is a medical emergency, and when a stroke strikes time lost is brain lost. That’s why these frontline telehealth services are so important. They allow consultants to diagnose patients quickly over video-link when they are not in the hospital, and decide the best course of treatment.

"It is essential that anyone experiencing symptoms of a stroke seeks medical attention urgently so that they can have a brain scan and receive the appropriate treatment.”

Lancashire and Cumbria is one NHS Trusts that’s pioneering a Telestroke service. It provides round-the-clock diagnosis, bringing specialist consultants to patients’ bedsides via webcam. In the past year 167 patients have received lifesaving thrombolysis treatment in Lancashire and Cumbria, and 24 more patients are surviving each year because the right treatment is getting to the patient faster than before.