Top marks for SWAH stroke unit

THE stroke unit at the South West Acute Hospital (SWAH) has long been renowned as top class, and now it has been confirmed as the best in the North – by a country mile.

In fact, the performance of the state-of-the-art unit at the Enniskillen hospital has been so impressive, there have been calls for SWAH to be considered as the location of a specialist hyperacute stroke unit in any future centralisation of stroke services.

The latest report by the Sentinel Stroke National Audit Programme (SSNAP), which assesses the performance of stroke care across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, has given an overall ‘A’ rating to the SWAH unit. It was the only stroke unit in the North to get top marks, with the Royal Victoria, Craigavon, and Ulster hospitals all receiving an overall ‘B’ grade, Daisy Hill getting a ‘C’, and Causeway, Antrim Area and Altnagelvin hospitals receiving a ‘D’.


The audit measured a number different aspects of care when assessing units, including scanning, various different therapies, thrombolysis, specialist assessments, patient care, and multi-disciplinary team work. The SWAH was outstanding in all areas, receiving an ‘A’ in eight out of 12 domains.

One of those areas of assessment was access to the stroke unit itself, which was determined by measuring the time between a patient arriving at a hospital’s emergency department (ED) and arriving at the stroke unit. Again, SWAH came out top by a wide margin.

The SWAH received a ‘B’ in this category, with all other hospitals in the North getting an ‘E.’ That was because the median time from ED arrival to the stroke unit at the SWAH was two hours 25 minutes. Meanwhile, at the Royal it was six hours, at Craigavon it was just under six hours, at the Ulster it was 17-and-a-half hours, and at Altnagelvin it was just under 18 hours.

This was not necessarily down to having less patients to treat, either. For example, the number of admissions to the SWAH during the study period of July to September was on par with the number of admissions to Altnagelvin – 50 and 51, respectively.

The latest report will be warmly welcomed by local campaigners, who mounted a massive community campaign to save the unit after it was threatened with closure in 2016 as part of a centralisation plan which proposed closing units in smaller hospitals in favour of specialised hyperacute units at larger hospitals.

Stephen McAloon from the Fermanagh Stroke Support Group (FSSG), which led that campaign, said the report was “no surprise” as the SWAH unit was regularly assessed as excellent. He said this was a result of the dedication of the SWAH stroke team.

“It’s great to get some positive news out of the SWAH,” he said. “It’s all down to the consultants, nurses, physios, and the whole team up there.”


Noting how well the SWAH unit performed compared to the region’s other hospitals, particularly in timely access to the unit itself, Mr McAloon noted patients from across the North would be better served travelling to the SWAH, where they would not only receive care at the region’s top performing unit, but would receive that care significantly faster than if they were treated at other hospitals.

“The consultants up there would love to see hyperacute services coming to the SWAH,” he said. “I think it’s the place for it. As you can see, it’s the fastest place to be seen.

“If they are trying to send us up to Altnagelvin or Craigavon, their waiting times are much longer, but if patients were sent to the SWAH they would be seen in two hours.

“Even with the journey down the road they would be treated much faster at the SWAH.”

Mr McAloon said the FSSG would continue to support the SWAH stroke unit with their vital work in whatever way it could.

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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