Stevenage health lead 'appalled' as Lister stroke unit is downgraded again

Lister Hospital and, inset, SteveJeannette Thomas

Cllr Jeannette Thomas (inset), Stevenage Council's lead member for health, said she was 'appalled' after the Lister Hospital's stroke services were downgraded for the third time in two years - Credit: Archant / Stevenage Council

Lister Hospital’s stroke services have been downgraded for a third time after a report found it was failing in its delivery of life-saving drugs and rehabilitation.

Last week, this newspaper reported that Lister's stroke care had been dropped two grades, from the highest of A to a C.

The national stroke auditor (SSNAP) has now downgraded it to a D, based on its performance between July and September 2021.

The stroke unit itself was rated E - the lowest possible rating - as were delivery of clot-busting thrombolysis drugs and multi-disciplinary team working.

Occupational therapy and physiotherapy were rated D – and just 21 per cent of patients received six-month assessments.

SSNAP’s clinical director Professor James Martin said a D or E grade meant the service “requires improvement”.

Dee Thomas, chair of Hertfordshire County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee, said she had asked hospital bosses to appear before councillors and answer questions.

“I have asked them to come to the next meeting at County Hall, on March 14, so they can update the authority regarding what’s happening,” she said.

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Jeannette Thomas, Stevenage Council’s lead member for health, is her husband’s long-term carer after he suffered a stroke.

“I’m appalled, to be honest, that we should be that bad,” she said.

“You never know how much they have been impacted by Covid and staff resilience – but for people that have had a stroke, it’s imperative that they get treatment as soon as possible.

“Something as important as the stroke unit – we need to know that there’s going to be some immediate progress on this.”

Asked whether it wanted to respond to the latest SSNAP ratings, the Lister referred to its statement last week.

In that statement, medical director Dr Michael Chilvers said: “We know that improvements need to be made.”

He said a “deep dive” had been undertaken into “challenges” which had sometimes impacted patient care, including demand on A&E and inpatient beds.

He also cited staff shortages on the stroke unit and a national shortage of occupational therapists.

“In response, the trust has put together an action plan,” said Dr Chilvers – including ring-fencing stroke beds, reducing delays in A&E and improving staffing levels.

For more, read:

Stroke patients put at risk at Lister Hospital, NHS auditor says