Louise Buchanan - thumbnail.jpgDr Louise Buchanan, associate medical director and consultant cardiologist, has written an open letter to address some concerns around cardiology and stroke services at West Cumberland Hospital. 

I am a consultant cardiologist in North Cumbria, and I am also the Associate Medical Director for a number of services including stroke.  I work in in both the West Cumberland Hospital (WCH) and the Cumberland Infirmary (CIC). I am very aware of concerns surrounding our stroke and cardiology services, and I would like to try to explain why our services are provided in the way they are.

As a west Cumbrian myself, I know how much West Cumberland Hospital means to the local community. I also understand the reservations people may have about travelling further afield for treatment. People don’t want to be far from their family when they are in hospital and COVID-19 has certainly showed us just how hard that can be. But when our patients are acutely ill we need to be sure they get the best possible care from specialist teams with the expertise and equipment they need to save lives.

Medicine is constantly advancing and it is vital that we continue to keep up with best practice to ensure we are providing high quality services to our communities. In my speciality cardiology, patients from west Cumbria used to be transferred to Middlesbrough for specialist treatment if required. In 2011, we opened The Heart Centre at CIC which offers emergency interventional treatment for heart attack patients across our region. We are one of only three trusts in the North East and Cumbria which offers this service. The demand for cardiology services continues to grow and that’s why we are now going to invest over £3 million in new equipment to expand the Centre and enable us to treat even more patients. We still have a coronary care unit open at WCH with consultant cardiologists working there, clinics running every day and we provide some cardiology services only at WCH.

With regards to Stroke services, we opened the Hyper Acute Stroke Unit (HASU) at CIC in late 2019. Prior to this, there was no 24/7 emergency stroke service at either of our hospitals. Because of advancements in how strokes are treated, HASUs are now recommended because they bring together a  team of specialists to provide early decision making and intervention seven days a week. Having quick access to specialist services reduces the long term impact of strokes. Our HASU has an ‘A’ rating in the Sentinel Stroke National Audit Programme (SSNAP) and is one of the top 20% performing stroke units in the country. It is not possible for us to run two HASUs in such a small organisation due to the level of  equipment and staffing  required and in particular the number of patients clinicians must treat every year in order to maintain their specialist skills. Patients coming to the HASU from west Cumbria only stay at CIC for the initial phase of their stroke and are then transferred back to  the stroke unit at WCH for rehabilitation as soon as possible. We are continuing to invest in stroke services at WCH with a new stroke rehabilitation unit being built as part of the next phase of the hospital redevelopment. We have a fantastic stroke team there who work closely with the team at CIC and our colleagues in the ambulance service.

We know that since we opened The Heart Centre and the HASU, our patient outcomes have improved for people across north and west Cumbria. We are providing better care and that is something we shouldn’t lose sight of. We will  keep focusing on any improvements to ensure we continue to provide safe, high quality care to all of our patients regardless of where they live. 




News tags