Celebratory tone of Observer stroke feature at odds with upcoming inquest into mother's death | Fieldfisher
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Celebratory tone of Observer stroke feature at odds with upcoming inquest into mother's death

With unfortunate timing, the Observer last week ran a feature celebrating the experience of a stroke victim following emergency thrombectomy surgery at the Royal Stoke University hospital.

In the piece, 53-year-old Deb Kelly, who suffered a stroke in January 2023, was quoted as saying it was 'unbelievable' that she walked out of the hospital a few days later with her speech and movement completely restored following mechanical thrombectomy surgery to remove the blood clot in her brain that had caused the stroke.

Clearly, we all wish Ms Kelly well, but her story makes difficult reading for my clients who are preparing for the inquest into the death of a wife and mother of four children who also had a stroke not too far from the same area of the UK as Ms Kelly three months earlier.

Following a delay of one and a half hours waiting for an ambulance, my client's wife arrived at Calderdale hospital in Halifax in the early hours on a Sunday in November 2022.

The hospital has a Hyper Acute Stroke Unit (HASU) and supposedly offers a specialist stroke service, including providing thrombolysis, treatment using medications to break up blood clots and prevent new clots from forming. Due to the delays in the ambulance arriving, my client's wife reached hospital too late to receive thrombolysis.

A CT scan on arrival at the hospital confirmed that the blood clot in the brain was suitably positioned and accessible for removal by thrombectomy. Unfortunately, what the hospital does not provide is mechanical thrombectomy and only has a referral pathway to Leeds General Infirmary for that surgery between 9am and 3pm, Monday to Friday and, as mentioned, this was a Sunday.

There also was no pathway in place to transfer the patient to an NHS hospital outside of West Yorkshire that also provides a 24/7 thrombectomy service, including the Royal Salford Hospital 32 miles away or Royal Stoke Hospital 78 miles away that saved Ms Kelly and could have saved my client's wife.

The Trust governing Calderdale Hospital has already acknowledged that there are 'gaps' in the thrombectomy service provided in West Yorkshire. The regional pathway (to refer patients to Leeds for thrombectomy Mon – Fri 0800– 1500 only and no provision outside of those times) was instigated in September 2018, as commissioned by the Integrated Care Board. The regional policy had remained unchanged since September 2018.

Only a few weeks before the death of my client's wife, as part of its Saving Brains campaign, the Stroke Association had provided an open letter to Downing Street about the 'postcode lottery' in the UK in relation to stroke treatment services, specifically access to mechanical thrombectomy.

In my case, there were hospitals offering a 24/7 thrombectomy service within a relatively short distance of Calderdale Hospital to have likely been able to save the patient's life if a timely transfer had been undertaken. What was missing were the protocols to get her to the right place in time to provide the positive outcome as described by the Observer.

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