Stroke Services

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:21 pm on 5th December 2017.

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Photo of Steve Brine Steve Brine The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health 7:21 pm, 5th December 2017

I am going to press on, because we have to finish at a certain time, but I thank my hon. Friend for her contribution earlier.

Stroke services are an important part of the range of vital services delivered in the part of Essex represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend West. It is important that his constituents have the right access to the right care at the right time, which in this case means specialist acute and hyper-acute stroke units. As he knows, and as we have discussed in Adjournment debates previously, there is a lively debate in his local area about the best way to configure services in order to meet these needs. As ever, he makes a powerful case for Southend, which he says has shown itself to be both safe and effective, and I have no reason to doubt his word.

My hon. Friend’s second big question was about what we are doing to transform services. Sustainability and transformation partnerships are absolutely key in this regard. STPs cannot but help in improving stroke services; they have a huge part to play. STPs should bring the local population, NHS organisations and local authority bodies together to propose how they, at a locally designed level, can improve the way that their local health and care is planned and delivered. These local areas have been encouraged to take a collective view of the local health system so that they can explore how best services within the local area, including stroke services, can be streamlined and centred around the patient, and determine what configurations are necessary within each local area to deliver the best possible care. My hon. Friend’s description of turf wars does not surprise me, although it does disappoint me. If he wishes to raise anything specific with me, I ask him to write to me about it. As the Minister responsible for STPs, I do not want to see this happening, and if I can help with it, I will certainly do so.

Much guidance has been issued to the system from us at the centre to help support STPs in making these crucial local reconfiguration decisions. My hon. Friend’s associated STP, Mid and South Essex, is making good progress and has recently been rated through our STP dashboard as being in the top half, so it is a top-half-of-the-table team among STPs. Mid and South Essex’s stroke services compare very well with the best, in many ways, but, as he says, we could be doing much better. One area that it has identified for improvement is that none of the three existing hospitals currently has the right number of specialists to provide the level of specialist stroke unit care that is being proposed. That goes to the heart of some of the examples that he gave from the consultant he has been speaking to.

I welcome the fact that organisations within my hon. Friend’s area, and other STP areas across England, are working in partnership to develop proposals that can really benefit those who matter most—the patients. There are proposals currently out for consultation in his area, which obviously my hon. Friend James Duddridge takes a very close interest in as well. I look forward to seeing the results of that consultation in due course. Knowing my hon. Friends, I feel almost certain that we will be back here discussing that at some point.

I mentioned the tangible progress that has been made in improving both the quality and delivery of stroke services, with evidence-based public health campaigns and really strong, well-organised local services, but there is so much more to do. Patient mortality has indeed fallen, compliance with the standards has risen, and patient experience and satisfaction continues to improve. This is a pathway on which I expect us to continue. New services that my hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise, such as mechanical thrombectomy, can really help us in achieving this. He said what a fascinating piece of medical technology that is. Putting the mesh into the groin for it then to travel through to have such an impact is truly incredible. We are very clever, in many ways.

How this is being delivered is changing, and that is important. The STPs are providing a new way of working. They can be controversial because they involve difficult decisions around reconfiguration, but they should involve local organisations, local services, local people, and local MPs. Local MPs who are not involved in their STPs should ask themselves why not. STPs, and the whole reconfiguration process, are a huge opportunity for us. Locally led commissioning enables local need to be taken into account in decision making about the shape of all services. It can result in very strong local services that can meet these needs, and nowhere is that more important than in stroke care. It is a system that drives improvement in all patient care, and that is what we are about. I thank my hon. Friend for bringing this debate to the House, and other hon. Members who have contributed.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.