Stroke care improved at Lothian emergency departments

People in Lothian who have had a stroke can now be "seen" by world-leading experts in stroke care immediately on arrival in accident and emergency departments across the area.

New video conferencing equipment has now been installed in casualty departments across Lothian to ensure accident and emergency medics can call in NHS Lothian's stroke specialists to advise on the care needed.

It's vital that stroke sufferers get the right sort of care as quickly as possible to reduce the damage done to the patient's brain.

The new equipment has already paid off for one patient - after NHS Lothian's leading stroke expert Professor Martin Dennis was able to use the screens to advise colleagues against performing a procedure involving limited risks.

Prof Dennis was able to see that the stroke was not severe enough to justify taking the risk of performing a clot-busting procedure known as thrombolysis.

Professor Dennis said:

"This new equipment is the first phase in our plans to make specialist stroke care advice available at all times. By using it, I've already been able to advise colleagues not to proceed with plans to thrombolyse one patient, as I was able to see for myself whether that procedure was appropriate."

The work involved the installation of this equipment in the Stroke Unit at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh. This facility is linked to special screens and cameras in suites at both the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and St John's in Livingston, NHS Lothian's two adult accident and emergency facilities.

While there are stroke specialists on duty at both the RIE and St John's most of the time, the new equipment makes it possible for specialists based at the Western General to ensure an expert opinion is always available to accident and emergency medics at the other two sites.

People who have strokes at night and the weekend who might benefit from thrombolysis are automatically taken by the Scottish Ambulance Service to the Western General in Edinburgh, so the new equipment will be used mainly during the day when it would take too long for a stroke consultant to travel in person to the relevant site.

The £60,000 project is a joint initiative with the Scottish Centre for Telehealth and is part of a planned Scottish Telestroke Network.

Future plans include the provision of special laptops with webcams so that on-call stroke experts can provide advice on care from home or other locations. This will potentially allow consultants to provide advice around the clock to patients across South East Scotland