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Southend University Hospital plans Mobile Stroke Unit project

28 March 2018

Health Care

Stroke clinicians at Southend University Hospital are leading a three-month project using a Mobile Stroke Unit (MSU), in partnership with the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) and Anglia Ruskin University. This the first time a Mobile Stroke Unit, a concept developed by the University of the Saarland in Germany, has been tested in the UK.

The Mobile Stroke Unit, which has an on-board CT scanner and blood-testing equipment, will be staffed by stroke and imaging experts who can diagnose and start treating patients with suspected stroke at the scene. 

Lead Stroke Consultant at Southend, Dr Paul Guyler explains:

"It's widely known that 'time is brain' when it comes to stroke.  When a patient is suspected to have had a stroke a CT scan is essential to allow specialists to determine whether the patient has a blood clot in the brain, a bleed in the brain or something else.

"The scan determines the diagnosis and what treatment happens next, and the Mobile Stroke Unit brings the scanner and the clinicians to the patient."

Daniel Phillips, Area Clinical Lead for EEAST, said: "We are looking forward to working with Southend University Hospital on the Mobile Stroke Unit project, which would is a first for the UK. The project aims to dispatch the unit with a doctor, radiologist and paramedic on board to patients having a suspected stroke in the Southend and Castle Point and Rochford area. We know that early treatment of a stroke dramatically improve the outcomes for patients."

Thanks to the generosity of local people, Southend's  stroke fundraising has been very successful and Southend Hospital Charitable Foundation, Southend Hospital Charity and the Advanced Surgical Equipment Trust (ASET) have been able to contribute funds specifically set aside for stroke to support the project.

The Trust was offered the opportunity, to test the specialist ambulance in the community for a short period of time.  This was made possible because of the of the strong links between Consultant Interventional Neuroradiologist Professor Iris Grunwald, who works at the Trust and also holds the post of Director of Neuroscience at Anglia Ruskin University School of Medicine, and her colleagues at the University of the Saarland, Germany who are supplying the vehicle free of charge. 

The unit will be based at Southend to ensure safety and governance standards are met and Professor Grunwald has been working with the Trust's stroke team to put plans into place.  Anglia Ruskin University and the team will be evaluating the information collected during the project.

Professor Grunwald said:

"We know that Mobile Stroke Units work in a densely populated city through trials carried out in Germany, Norway, Australia and the USA. 

"The data and learning we gather during the period the vehicle is in use will be valuable in understanding the benefits and challenges of using a Mobile Stroke Unit in a more suburban or rural area, like we have across mid and south Essex."

While the project is limited to a three-month period, the stroke team are looking to the future and hope that the information they gather over the 12 weeks will help inform plans to develop stroke services across mid and south Essex. 

Dr Guyler continued:

"Specialist stroke clinicians across mid and south Essex agree that we should, as a group, aspire to provide the highest quality services for patients with stroke, which is why we are supporting proposals for a single specialist acute stroke unit located at Basildon, and acute stroke units at both Southend and Mid Essex hospitals.

"This project is completely separate from the STP proposals and, if the data support a Mobile Stroke Unit providing benefit for the people of mid and south Essex, we will put forward proposals and engage with our regulators and local communities to get a conversation going."

Dr José Garcia Lobera, Southend  CCG Chair and clinical lead for mental health, said "The arrival of the mobile stroke unit is very exciting news for Southend.  I have been sited on this project from the very early stages and it has my full support with real potential to reduce time to treatment and improve patient outcomes."


NOTES:  The MSU arrived in the UK on 25 March to ensure the teams involved have adequate time to undertake the appropriate preparation, training and checks to ensure patient safety needs are met.  We anticipate the MSU will be in action from late April once all safety, quality and regulatory arrangements are satisfied.