Speaking at the opening today of the Acute Stroke and Brain Injury Unit at St. Peter’s Hospital, Chertsey, actress Carole Boyd, who plays Linda Snell in the long running BBC Radio 4 soap ‘The Archers’, movingly spoke about the treatment and care her husband Patrick and she had received when he suffered a stroke some four and a half years ago. She praised the staff at Ashford and St. Peter’s Hospitals, particularly Chaucer Ward on the Ashford site, where Patrick received care and rehabilitation services. “Patrick and I were treated as very special persons and the care was of an amazinq quality. This is a wonderful new project and is a positive turnaround for the Trust. It will be such a benefit for the local community.”

During the day over 100 nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals participated in a Stroke Study Day and heard speakers including a GP, neuro clinical physiotherapist and elderly care consultant along with representatives from the South East Stroke Research Network and South East Coast Ambulance Service talk about stroke and the issues in its treatment and prevention. Many organisations and companies put on displays about the services available to help patients who have had a stroke.

The new Unit cost £325,000 to develop, has 24 beds and is based on Cedar Ward which had to be closed whilst the unit was completely refurbished and specialist monitoring equipment installed. Nearby is a specialist therapy gym with equipment designed to support the rehabilitation of stroke patients and staffed by specialist nurses. The Friends of St. Peter’s contributed money towards the equipment. In 2007 Ashford and St. Peter’s saw over 400 stroke patients who came in through its emergency services.

Dr Bhaskar Mandal, Consultant in the Care of the Elderly, said: “Someone has a stroke every five minutes in the UK and strokes are the third most common cause of death, after cancer and heart disease. A stroke is more common among people over the age of 65, but can happen at any age. Strokes are the leading cause of disability in the UK. That is why the opening of this new 24 bed £325,000 unit is so important. Many studies have shown that making sure that patients who have strokes get the specialist treatment now available in this new unit ensures that patients make a fuller and faster recovery. We can now make sure that patients from west Surrey and Middlesex get the best possible treatment at their local hospital.”

A stroke is what happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. Blood carries essential nutrients and oxygen to the brain. Without a blood supply, brain cells can be damaged or destroyed and won’t be able to do their job. Because the brain controls everything the body does, damage to the brain will affect body functions. For example, limb movement or speech may be affected. Strokes are generally caused by either a blood clot or bleeding in the head.

In the case of a clot, it is possible to treat the condition with a clot dissolving (thrombolysing) drug, but this is only effective if the drugs are administered within three hours of the stroke. This three hour window makes time a critical factor in the successful treatment of cases of stroke. Correct diagnosis is essential; however, administering a clot dissolving drug to a patient whose stroke was caused by bleeding would be fatal. Stroke services form an important part of the National Service Framework (NSF) for Older People. Providing rapid access to specialist stroke services and then into specialist rehabilitation saves lives and reduces disabilities.

The key note speaker at the Study Day, Dr Anthony Rudd, consultant physician in stroke medicine at St Thomas’ Hospital, Associate Director in the Clinical Effectiveness and Evaluation Unit at the Royal College of Physicians and President-Elect of the British Association of Stroke Physicians set out why stroke is such an important issue. “The National Audit Office’s 2005 report into stroke and the services available in England and Wales shocked people,” he said. “It showed that there was variable performance across both countries with brain imaging that was poor, insufficient specialist staff and not enough follow-up support for patients. Better services mean better outcomes for patients, lower mortality, lower length of stay, lower long term dependency and lower costs. Much has changed since then. The opening of the Acute Stroke and Brain Injury Unit at St. Peter’s Hospital is an important step towards providing local people with a much improved service.”

Many people still don’t know that strokes are largely preventable. More than three times as many women died of stroke than of breast cancer in England and Wales in 2002. But, when asked what the top causes of death were, 40% more women mentioned breast cancer than mentioned stroke. Further information about Stroke and an interview with Dr Rudd can be found on the NHS Choices website at www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Stroke/Pages/Questionstoask.aspx?url=Pages/Questionstoasktab.aspx.

Information can also be found at BBC Health at www.bbc.co.uk/health/conditions/stroke1.shtml; NHS Direct atwww.nhsdirect.nhs.uk/articles/article.aspx?articleId=351 and The Stroke Association at www.stroke.org.uk.


The opening was attended by the Mayors of Runnymede, Spelthorne, Woking and Elmbridge and the deputy Mayor of Hounslow. They said:


Cllr Rosemary Dane – Mayor of Elmbridge

“This is an excellent step towards the future. St. Peters Hospital has been knocked in the media so much and I feel this is a step in the right direction. This unit is something that will give hope to thousands. I wish the new unit well.”


Cllr Hugh Meares – Mayor of Runnymede

“The talk by Dr Rudd really highlighted the main point that a stroke unit is so important. I realise the importance of this unit as my sister-in-law had a stroke, only last week.”


Cllr Bryan Cross – Mayor of Woking

“I am very impressed with the unit and it will serve the residents well.”


Cllr Andrew Hirst – Mayor of Spelthorne

“It is an excellent unit with committed staff members. I feel very privileged to be at the opening of the unit. Only a few weeks ago I was opening the eye unit at Ashford Hospital.”