New high-tech system to improve care for stroke patients

Staff and a patient from the Stroke Unit on Egerton Ward at Conquest Hospital with the new telemedicine system
Staff and a patient from the Stroke Unit on Egerton Ward at Conquest Hospital with the new telemedicine system
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A NEW high-tech system that enables stroke patients to be assessed and treated by specialist consultants 24 hours a day has been introduced at the Conquest Hospital.

The telemedicine system uses technology to allow stroke consultants to make potential life-saving decisions about the treatment of patients, even when they are not present in the hospital.

The news comes a week after we revealed NHS bosses’ plans to cut a host of services across the hospital trust, with proposals afoot to downgrade departments at either the Conquest or DGH in Eastbourne in favour of consultant-led units at the other.

And as well as maternity and paediatrics, specialist stroke care was among those earmarked for the chop, where it could be centralised at one hospital or the other.

The new system uses a high definition video camera and television that enables the consultants to make quick clinical decisions from locations outside the Conquest, such as their home or another hospital, at any time of the day or night.

Drug treatment, called thrombolysis, can significantly reduce the disabling damage of a stroke but must be delivered within four-and-a-half hours of the onset of symptoms to be effective. The new technology reduces any potential delays in consultants making a decision to prescribe the drug.

The system, which is also available at the Conquest’s sister hospital, Eastbourne DGH, allows the doctor to talk to patients using video and audio links and view scans from a laptop computer.

Dr Mohammad Rahmani, consultant physician and clinical lead for stroke medicine, said: “Thrombolysis is suitable for around 10-15 per cent of stroke patients and can significantly reduce the likelihood of long-term disability or even death. It works by dissolving the clot lodged in the brain, allowing the blood flow to resume but it must be administered as soon as possible, within four-and-a-half hours of the onset of the stroke for it to be effective. Anyone who is able to get fast access to specialist help will greatly improve their chances of making a good recovery, which is why this new service is so important.

“Telemedicine is a way of treating patients in remote areas in a separate location from the clinicians, which could include a consultation between a patient and a doctor using video conferencing.

“It reduces the need for travel by allowing a stroke consultant to make quick clinical decisions from home or another hospital which not only saves time but also can save lives.”