A hyper acute stroke service is to be trialled at West Suffolk Hospital giving patients access to a top specialist seven days a week.
The joint initiative with Ipswich Hospital will create one team of doctors and nurses to work between the two sites - extending the scope of the current stroke service which is available five days a week.
At the moment patients in Suffolk may see a consultant but not all hospitals can guarantee immediate access to a top stroke specialist throughout the week.
Dr Anne Nicolson, stroke consultant at West Suffolk Hospital, said the new model will see them recruit an extra stroke consultant and stroke specialist nurses.
She said: “This is an improved stroke service for patients which will see them seen and treated quickly.
“The first three days after a stroke are the most important for patients to get specialist attention quickly to limit the brain damage caused.
“This will extend the current five day a week service to a seven day a week service to make sure that people have access to a stroke specialist.
“Having it essentially at the two ends of the county I think works in patients’ best interests.”
The move is part of a drive by the Suffolk Stroke Project Board - made up of Healthwatch, the Stroke Association, hospitals, Suffolk Community Healthcare and the clinical commissioning groups - to improve services in the county for the 1,000 people who suffer a stroke each year.
Their next priority is to introduce early supported discharge offering patients who are able to be released from hospital early therapies at home.
Dr Billy McKee, a GP representing the Ipswich and East Suffolk as well as the West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Groups, said they will engage with patients and carers on the discharge service.
He added: “The hyper acute stroke unit will be carefully managed and we will monitor its progress. As part of the safety measures, an independent clinician will be asked to review this service.”
Neil Chapman, assistant regional manager for the Stroke Association in the East of England, who is based in Eastgate Street, Bury St Edmunds, welcomed the hyper acute stroke service as a ‘crucial first step’ by the Stroke Project Board in raising standards of care. He added that the second step will be introducing early supported discharge.
Bosses aim for the hyper acute stroke services to be in place by autumn.