Fewer than one in five stroke victims in North Norfolk reach a specialist treatment centre within the ‘golden hour’, putting many of them at serious risk, according to official figures obtained by local MP Norman Lamb.
Under national standards, stroke patients who are potentially eligible for thrombolysis – a treatment to dissolve blood clots and restore the flow of blood to the brain – should arrive at a specialist ‘hyper acute stroke unit’ (HASU) within 60 minutes of an emergency call.
However, this target has been met for just 18% of stroke patients in North Norfolk CCG this year (2016/17) – far below the national standard of 56%.
Figures obtained via a Freedom of Information request show that 27 out of 149 patients who were eligible for thrombolysis arrived at a HASU centre within 60 minutes between April and November 2016. In November, the latest month for which figures are available, the target was reached for only 13% of patients.
In the East Anglia region, 50% of stroke patients served by the East of England Ambulance Service have reached a specialist unit within an hour this year. August was the only month where the 56% target was met, while just 44% of patients arrived at the HASU centre within the hour in November – the trust’s worst performance since April.
Commenting, Norman Lamb MP said:
“These are unacceptable and deeply worrying figures, which show the extent of the disadvantage people in remote rural areas face in receiving emergency treatment.
“Early treatment of stroke is critically important and can prevent long-term disability and death. But in North Norfolk, there will inevitably be people who have suffered life-changing consequences or worse as a result of delays in getting to these specialist units.
“This is not the fault of the paramedics, who are doing brilliant work despite being under immense strain. However, we must review some of the perverse national targets for responding to 999 calls which are not time critical, and other incentives in the system which pull ambulances away from rural areas and into the more heavily populated towns and cities like Norwich.
“People should have an equal right to receive life-saving treatment on time, regardless of where they live.”