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Major changes to stroke services to go live this week

Last updated: 16/05/2023

The Stroke Sub-Acute Rehabilitation Unit (SSARU) at South Bristol Community Hospital, run by Sirona care & health

Stroke services across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire will be transforming this week as part of an improvement plan that could save 15 lives each year, while providing improved quality of life for stroke survivors.

Changes to services will fully go live on 17 May, including improvements to:

  • Emergency stroke care, with the establishment of a single ‘Hyper-Acute Stroke Unit’ at Southmead Hospital, providing 24/7 emergency treatment for everyone in the area. Research shows that more people survive stroke when specialised services are located in one place.
  • Ongoing hospital treatment, with the establishment of an ‘Acute Stroke Unit’ at Southmead Hospital. More people will receive their ongoing care in a dedicated unit, where staff are specialists in stroke care. The unit will be located next to the ‘Hyper-Acute Stroke Unit’, significantly reducing transfers of care (where people are transferred from one ward or hospital setting to another) and improving patient experience. A specialist stroke workforce will be retained at the Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI) to support people with specialist needs who cannot be transferred to the Southmead Hospital units.
  • Following a period of transition, the current stroke ward at the BRI (ward A528) will become a General Internal Medical ward from Monday 5 June 2023.
  • Inpatient rehabilitation, through the establishment of two ‘Stroke Sub-Acute Rehabilitation Units’. Both units are in place and bring a range of specialist services and therapies together to improve inpatient rehabilitation support for people who have recovered from their stroke but aren’t quite well enough to go home. One unit is located at the Weston General Hospital site and a second unit is located at South Bristol Community Hospital.
  • Enhanced community rehabilitation, through a comprehensive Integrated Community Stroke Service. This service is already in place, providing improved support in people’s homes and includes Life After Stroke services.

The changes mean that the vast majority of people suspected of having a stroke in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire will be taken to Southmead Hospital’s Hyper Acute Stroke Unit for emergency treatment. People suspected of having a stroke in the Burnham-On-Sea area, will be taken to Musgrove Park Hospital’s Hyper Acute Stroke Unit.

Judith Hernandez del Pino - Senior Responsible Officer (SRO) for the Stroke Improvement Programme at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, said: “There has been an extensive amount of effort put into the co-design and creation of this pathway and I am very thankful to everyone involved.

“The changes being made have allowed us to develop a care pathway that improves the prevention of stroke, as well as to provide the best possible stroke emergency care, rehabilitation, and care at home once individuals are discharged from hospital.

“The developments have enabled us to meet the needs of local survivors wherever they are on their recovery journey and provide the best possible care.”

Dr Chris Burton, Lead for the Stroke Improvement Programme, said: “Stroke is one of the biggest killers in the UK, with 1,500 people having a stroke in our area every year.

“The changes being put in place gives everyone access to the very best medical care available, meaning more people across our area will be able to survive and thrive after suffering a stroke.

“An extensive amount of work has been undertaken to put these changes in place. I’d like to thank everyone involved for their contribution in developing these life-changing services.” 

Claire Angell, a stroke survivor and lived experience representative for the Stroke Programme, added: “Through my experience of stroke, and hearing from fellow stroke survivors, I know how access to the very best care can improve outcomes – not just from the best immediate treatment, but the best ongoing care too.

“The improvements being made across the whole stroke pathway will enable more people to survive stroke, while also enabling more people to live with less disability.

“I’m really pleased to have been part of a group of stroke survivors who have played a significant part, alongside leading clinicians, in developing these services and improving outcomes for local people.”

As part of the programme, Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA) services, for stroke prevention, will be provided within the Bristol Royal Infirmary and Weston General Hospital, Monday to Friday, with weekend TIA clinics at Southmead Hospital.

While all services will be in place from Wednesday 17 May, ambulances will stop taking suspected stroke patients to Weston General Hospital and Bristol Royal Infirmary from 5pm on Tuesday 16 May. After this time, people will be taken to the Hyper-Acute Stroke Unit at Southmead Hospital.

The consultation on proposals for stroke services ran from 7 June to 3 September 2021. 1,833 responses were received representing more than 2,200 people across over 40 engagement events and outreach meetings.

Find out more information on the Healthier Together website.