Stroke victims will have to travel for up to 45 minutes to receive treatment under NHS plans to close specialist units.
Officials are considering shutting a third of the stroke centres in England in the hope of ending the postcode lottery of care.
There are currently 126 stroke units in the country but the plans would see this number reduced to just 86 highly specialised units, where patients would be more likely to receive advanced procedures which significantly lower their chances of disability and death.
The plans will be highly controversial and are likely to be opposed by campaigners and the NHS staff who stand to lose their jobs.
Patients will have to travel much further for treatment, at a time when every extra minute counts against their recovery.
Stroke victims will have to travel for up to 45 minutes to receive treatment under NHS plans to close a third of specialist units (file photo)
Currently 90 per cent of adults are a 30-minute drive from their nearest stroke unit. Under the plans, 90 per cent would be a 45-minute drive from their nearest unit.
Strokes are the fourth biggest killer in the UK and two thirds of victims are left with disabilities.
The proposals were briefly outlined in NHS England’s Long-term Plan, launched by the Prime Minister two weeks ago, which stated that stroke services would be ‘reconfigured’ into specialist centres. But research uncovered by the Health Service Journal shows the full extent to which stroke units would be reduced.
According to figures obtained by the journal from the Stroke Association, the number of specialist ‘neuroscience centres’ would actually increase from 24 to 30 across England.
The proposals were briefly outlined in NHS England’s Long-term Plan, launched by the Prime Minister two weeks ago
These units provide highly specialised care and would ensure more patients were offered ‘mechanical thrombectomies’ which remove blood clots from the brain to prevent lifelong disabilities.
The remaining 102 stroke units would be reduced to 50 hyper-acute stroke units, or HASUs, which provide world-class treatment.
Juliet Bouverie, the chief executive of the Stroke Association who was involved in NHS England’s Long-term Plan, said: ‘It is a significant reconfiguration [but] given the delays and non-starters over the last few years in attempts at reconfiguring stroke care, we would want this plan implemented quickly.
‘We know changes to or reductions in numbers of units can sound worrying but evidence tells us it will save lives by ensuring more people are able to access the treatment they need.’