HOSPITAL bosses said the controversial closure of Darlington’s acute stroke unit and its transfer to Durham City has led to an increase in the number of patients given potentially life-saving clotbusting drugs.

Before the changes, about ten per cent of stroke victims brought in were given the treatment.

But in the first month of operation, the centralised stroke unit gave clot-busting drugs to 24 per cent of stroke victims.

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As well as treating more patients than before, the proportion given the clot-busting drugs over the whole period since the unit moved to Durham City is averaging more than 20 per cent.

Dr Bernard Esisi, who heads the acute stroke service at the County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, said: “When a stroke strikes what matters is getting the right treatment quickly and in the right place.

We have seen rapid improvements in standards and the care we are providing over the past three months.”

Proposals to centralise emergency stroke treatment at the University Hospital in Durham City were strongly opposed by Darlington MP Jenny Chapman and Darlington Borough Council.

But last night hospital bosses said that the move had already resulted in more patients being admitted within four hours of having a stroke.

More patients are being seen by a stroke team within 24 hours of their stroke and more are being given drugs to restore blood-flow to the brain.

Before the switch to a single emergency stroke unit, cases were admitted to Darlington Memorial Hospital one week and then the University Hospital of North Durham the next week.

This was due to shortages of specialist medical staff.

The trust argued that in order to attract more stroke doctors and provide a reliable 24-hour service, it would be better to centralise treatment.

Dr Esisi said: “Good progress has been made in the past three months and we know that people are more likely to survive, make a better recovery and spend less time in hospital if they are admitted directly to a high-quality stroke unit and receive specialist care from a co-ordinated team.”

Wendy Newall, chairwoman of Darlington council’s health and partnership scrutiny committee, said: “I am pleased to hear the news that the move has gone well.

“The scrutiny committee will be meeting on May 8 to examine the evidence around the move to see how successful it has been.”