A large-scale telestroke service has gone live across Lancashire and Cumbria, allowing consultants to assess patients for thrombolysis treatment by video-link.
Fifteen consultants have been given a laptop in their own home that links to a specially designed ‘telecart’ positioned at the patient’s bedside in one of the eight hospitals in the stroke network.
The telecart carries video-conferencing technology and gives consultants access to the national Image Exchange Portal - so they can view CT scans and other medical images - along with medical records.
The hospitals included in the network are; Cumberland Infirmary, West Cumberland Hospital, Furness General Hospital, Royal Lancaster Infirmary, Blackpool Victoria Hospital, Royal Preston Hospital, Royal Blackburn Hospital and Southport General Hospital.
The service is operated on a rostered basis out of normal working hours. It will provide support for clinicians who need to decide whether to administer thrombolysis, which needs to be given within hours of a stroke to be effective, but which cannot be given to all patients showing symptoms of a stroke.
Consultant stroke physician, Dr Paul Davies, said use of the clot busting medication can be very effective and lead to reduced levels of disability.
“Thrombolysis treatment can only be given to patients within 4.5 hours of the onset of their stroke, so time is core to this treatment,” he said. “Telestroke will help improve the speed of patient diagnosis.
“We are using technology to take the stroke specialists to the patient, rather than moving the patient long distances, around rural areas, to where specialists work.”
As well as having significant benefits for patients, forecasts indicate that the network could potentially save the NHS £8m per year.
The Cumbria and Lancashire Cardiac and Stroke Network has been developing the network for the past two years.
Funding of £250,000 from the Regional Innovation Fund paid for production and implementation of the equipment, along with integration of a new broadband line connecting the hospital sites to the remote network of stroke specialists.
Virgin Media Business was responsible for providing the high-speed fibre optic network working in partnership with infrastructure and security specialist Imerja.
Imerja will manage the technology, and operate a 24 hour helpdesk. The cost is being split across the six trusts involved in the network.
The network’s telemedicine service has similarities with work done by NHS East of England and East of England Stroke Networks, which has now been adopted by more than 30 NHS sites.
However, the development and roll-out of the project in Lancashire and Cumbria has been conducted separately to the work done in the East of England.
© 2011 EHealth Media.