HEALTH officials have released figures which show a controversial new centralised stroke treatment unit has improved the treatment of acute patients.

Since the new centralised unit was set up at the University Hospital of North Durham, in Durham City, in January, about 89 per cent of patients have been given a brain scan within 24 hours of arriving. Also, every patient who needed clotbusting drugs was given an infusion within an hour of arrival.

The centralised unit replaced a two-centre approach to stroke treatment, with some patients being taken to the Durham hospital and others being taken to Darlington Memorial Hospital.

With the Darlington acute stroke unit now closed, members of Darlington Borough Councils health and partnerships scrutiny committee asked for more information about the way the new service is working.

At the last meeting of the committee in July, councillors voiced concerns that some patients from the Darlington area with suspected strokes were still being taken by ambulance to the Memorial Hospital.

New statistics released by the hospital trust yesterday showed that between January and July this year 89 per cent of 530 confirmed stroke patients in County Durham and Darlington were admitted directly to the stroke unit at the University Hospital of North Durham.

The figures showed that only 23 stroke patients – 4.3 per cent of the total admitted – went to Darlington Memorial Hospital first.

Thirteen were transferred to the North Durham hospital stroke unit while the other ten were not transferred because of other medical issues.

The figures from County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust showed that every patient believed to be at high risk of ministrokes, known as TIAs, were seen and treated within 24 hours.

During a seven-month period from January to July this year, 470 out of 530 confirmed stroke patients were directly admitted to the North Durham stroke unit.

Of the 60 patients not directly admitted to the stroke unit, 98 per cent were transferred to the unit within four hours.

Experts said they had seen “significant improvement” in reducing the time taken from admitting a patient to a stroke unit and giving them a potentially life-saving clotbuster drug.

All 56 patients selected for clotbusting drugs were given their infusions less than an hour after arriving.

County councillors are due to take a tour of the North Durham stroke unit and then discuss the report at a meeting on Tuesday.