Mobile stroke unit returns to get faster care to more patients

Mobile Stoke Unit (MSU) ambulance

A ground-breaking mobile stroke unit which could help prevent death or serious disability by making sure patients receive fast access to diagnostics and the right treatment has relaunched in east Suffolk.

The modified ambulance is attending calls to suspected strokes so that crews can carry out a CT scan and other tests in the vehicle. They will then decide on the best course of treatment, which could include giving a clot-busting thrombolysis to increase a patient’s chance of making a good recovery, transport to a specialist centre or a referral to their GP.

The unit is being tested as part of a research study and is being run by a partnership of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) and Saarland University in Germany, which has piloted a similar scheme.

It is the second time the ambulance has been stationed in Ipswich, where it was initially trialled last summer. As well as improving people’s chances of recovery, it is hoped that providing prompt diagnostics and the right treatment will also help keep as many as possible out of hospital during the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr Sajid Alam, stroke consultant at Ipswich Hospital, which is run by ESNEFT, said: “We are delighted to welcome the stroke ambulance back to Ipswich. The diagnostic capability on scene will enable us to provide safe, effective and appropriate care and keep people within the community wherever possible.

“With strokes, time is of the essence. Every minute of delay can result in the loss of two million brain cells and lead to serious disability or even death. Thanks to the stroke ambulance, crews were able to administer clot-busting drugs to our first two patients on scene. A faster delivery of the clot-busting drug could make a significant difference to their outcomes and may even have saved their lives.”

The ambulance will remain in Ipswich for the next few weeks, and will be manned by honorary visiting neurology consultant Professor Silke Walter and specially-trained staff from EEAST.

Dr Tom Davis, medical director at EEAST, said: “We’re delighted that the stroke ambulance has returned to Suffolk. It will allow us to provide a gold standard of pre-hospital care while also supporting our work during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The ambulance will prove especially useful in rural areas, where travel time to hospital can be significant. We look forward to measuring its success at the end of the trial.”

The unit is operational between 9am and 5pm on Monday to Friday.

Published 11th May 2020

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