THE Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) has come under fire for failing to announce the next proposed stage for stroke services in the South West Acute Hospital.
The future of the unit at SWAH which has previously been recognised as the best performing facility in the North continues to be clouded with uncertainty.
Now, MLA Rosemary Barton has accused the HSCB of ‘breaking its word’ to local patients in failing to announce the next proposed stage for stroke services here.
A review into stroke services across the North which has previously been delayed due to the lack of a Stormont Assembly, is now to be published in March.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said, “The forthcoming review will deal with the reform and enhancement of stroke services in N Ireland as a whole.
“The Department of Health has stated previously that a public consultation on the review is due to begin in March.”
Commenting on stroke services Mrs Barton said, “Only when the firm proposals are announced will we either be able to celebrate the retention of the SWAH unit, or alternatively if necessary once again mobilise to make sure that every last person is well aware of the absolute and medically proven need for the unit in Fermanagh to be retained.”
Looking back to a HSCB pre-consultation in 2017 Mrs Barton noted that proposals on a new model of stroke services were due to go out to
public consultation in 2018.
“That never happened and as a result local patients and staff have been left waiting under a huge cloud of uncertainty.”
At the time it was noted that a proposed shake-up of services that could result in ‘improved services’ and ‘fewer settings’ may see specialist stroke units based at just four hospitals.
Mrs Barton added that access to timely treatment for stroke patients was vital.
“Whilst I do understand that sometimes it can be medically more beneficial for a patient to travel a little further if it means a better quality of care, in the case of stroke units it is well-established that the sooner a patient receives care after a stroke the better their long-term prospects,” she pointed out.
“In fact, it has never once been proven that centralising acute stroke care to a very small number of high volume specialist centres in Northern Ireland, with its dispersed population, would in fact produce better clinical outcomes.”
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