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A ‘stroke’ of genius as Southend Hospital scoop £100,000 NHS Innovation Challenge Prize Award

25 February 2015

Health Care

Southend Hospital is renowned for striving ahead with stroke care and prevention, a reputation it continues to build upon after being announced as just one of 13 enterprising projects to win an award and £100,000 in the NHS Innovation Challenge Prize Award.

The winners were announced on February 23 in Manchester at a prestigious awards ceremony attended by the Secretary of State for Health. Southend Hospital and the other 12 winners beat 52 shortlisted applicants who had to present their ideas in a Dragon's Den-style pitch to a group of experts. 

This is Southend Hospital's fifth national award for clinical excellence or innovation since 2009, and provides another boost to the stroke team's on-going preparations for becoming the first hyper acute stroke unit (HASU) in Essex later this year.

If patients suffering a 'mini stroke' - or transient ischaemic attack (TIA) - receive prompt medical help, they can often avoid a more serious, disabling or even fatal stroke. In Southend, a state-of-the-art referral process has meant that the number of high-risk patients seen within 24 hours has soared from 17% to 96%, an improvement so striking that the system is being implemented in several neighbouring NHS Trusts.  

The Southend team, frustrated at seeing patients who could have been helped if their symptoms had been spotted earlier, joined colleagues in primary care and IT services to establish the new HOT-TIA system.

The previous paper-based referral system had been undermined by manual errors and delays caused by missing forms. Its replacement is a hyper-acute TIA online electronic form, using simple pre-programmed drop-down boxes to avoid the need for complex paper calculations in GP surgeries.

The completed form generates an instant 'risk score', allowing GPs to send a referral directly to the smartphone inboxes of the hospital-based stroke team. High-risk patients are then contacted urgently - sometimes even before they have left their GP consultation - to attend a specialist stroke clinic.

Lead Stroke Consultant, Dr Paul Guyler, says that the multi-national award winning redesigned TIA clinic has most importantly benefitted patients. "The TIA clinic is patient-centred, and able to respond to the urgency of patient need. We can see one patient - or ten - 365 days a year. No longer are we restricted by what the hospital or service could provide. The GPs using the system provide patients with immediate treatment and information, backed up rapidly by the specialist clinic for a specialist opinion and urgent investigations. Preventing a stroke is much better than trying to reverse damage from a subsequent clot in the brain."

Stroke consultant at Southend Hospital, Dr Devesh Sinha, explained how this revolutionary system benefitted patients. He said:  "It is frustrating for any doctor to see patients suffering because early stroke warnings are not triggering a referral correctly. We hope HOT TIA will be in the majority of UK trusts within the next five years. Patients are seen within an average of 14.5 hours in 96% of TIA referrals, compared to 17% previously. Timing is everything in stroke, especially as a TIA can be an indicator of bigger, more serious strokes.

"The pilot HOT-TIA system served a population of 400,000 and treated 400 suspected TIA patients per year, it is now available to a population of 1.03 million, 950 suspected TIA patients per year and its fantastic news that it is now planned to be rolled out nationally. It will save more time, save more money but most importantly will help save even more lives.

"It's a massive boost to the stroke team and IT team who spearheaded this important project that it is now set to go national and helps confirm Southend Hospital's pioneering stroke expertise. It doesn't just set the standard, it makes it and as such if the programme is rolled out nationally it will be known as Southend's HOT TIA, putting the town and hospital on the stroke map."

If it is adopted across the NHS in England the scheme is set to save an estimated potential £116 million a year, furthermore the cost of a full national implementation could be offset by preventing just seven strokes a year, as well as the additional economic benefits from cutting physically debilitating effects of stroke. 

Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England's Medical Director who presented the awards, said: "I know only too well how important these prizes are - both as an acknowledgement of the importance of innovation as a driver for quality in the NHS, and as recognition that many new ideas are happening every day on the front line of care.

"These are innovations that will transform the NHS. Approaches that allow services to be tailored to personal needs and expectations, that put more control in the hands of the individual, are the ones that will help us move from a stretched service treating illness to a sustainable one supporting wellness. The prizes, now in their fifth year, are an established part of the NHS innovation calendar and I look forward to following the progress of this year's winners."


Images: l-r Dr Devesh Sinha and Dr Paul Guyler collect the award

Notes to editor

There were 340 applicants in total.  

Applicants were asked to apply in one of seven areas: two diabetes challenges, infection control challenge, digital patient and clinician engagement challenge, use of technology challenge (the category that Dr Sinha and Dr Guyler won), rehabilitation challenge and acorn challenges.

Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust's multi award winning stroke unit is working to deliver an elite hyper acute stroke super unit (HASU).  HASUs bring experts and equipment under one roof to provide world-class treatment 24 hours a day, reducing death rates and long-term disability.  In addition to our existing dedicated and highly skilled staff, we are recruiting more than 35 new staff enabling the team to meet the standards of care currently only found in HASUs in London and Manchester, and offer a full 24 hours a day seven days a week seamless service for acute stroke patients in south Essex.