Proposals to reduce number of stroke units set to be announced

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Proposals to reduce the number of stroke units in Northern Ireland hospitals are expected to be announced later.

The reconfiguration of acute stroke services is a major plank of plans to reform and restructure health service delivery in the region.

Patients who suffer strokes can currently receive emergency treatment at eight hospitals.

It is understood a number of different models will be announced on Tuesday, all of which propose a reduction in that number.

The stroke units at the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen, Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry and Causeway Hospital in Coleraine are expected to come under most scrutiny in the plans outlined by health officials.

The Department of Health is moving to consolidate services in larger, centralised hyperacute stroke units.

Stormont ministers had already committed to review stroke services prior to the collapse of powersharing in early 2017.

The commitment was made on the back of the findings of a major Stormont-commissioned examination of healthcare delivery in the region by health reform expert Professor Rafael Bengoa in 2016

Ahead of Tuesday’s announcement, a Department of Health spokesman said: “To reduce disability and save lives, we plan to develop a network of specialised hyperacute stroke units with 24/7 access to faster diagnosis and cutting edge treatments.”

He said the proposed reforms would lead to increased use of the clot-busting treatment thrombolysis and extend provision of thrombectomy - a revolutionary procedure that removes a clot from the brain.

A public consultation on the plans is due to run for 12 weeks.