CENTRALISED stroke services such as that introduced in Worcestershire last July can save more lives and reduce the amount of time patients spend in hospital, a national study has suggested.

British Medical Journal (BMJ) research released this week showed trusts which have fewer but larger specialist stroke centres were able to provide access to specialists 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In July 2013, Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust – which runs Redditch’s Alexandra Hospital and Worcestershire Royal Hospital - closed stroke beds in the north of the county and centralised services in Worcester.

Although critics said they were concerned patients in the Redditch area would be put at risk, figures have since shown the centralised unit has been treated 84 per cent of people showing the warning signs of a stroke, above the 70 per cent target.

The BMJ research looked at centralised units in London and Manchester, where it found almost 100 fewer patients were dying every year.

One of the authors of the report, Professor Naomi Fulop of University College London’s department of applied health research, said: "It may seem counter-intuitive for an ambulance to drive a critical patient straight past the nearest hospital, but it saves lives.

"While an individual may feel that losing their local hospital's stroke unit is bad for them, going to a specialised centre further away actually increases their chance of surviving a stroke.

"Now that our paper has clearly shown the benefits of centralisation in London, other urban areas should seriously consider adopting a similar model."

Last month it was revealed more than 1,500 patients showing warning signs of a stroke had benefitted from Worcestershire’s centralised services. The trust’s stroke team was recently shortlisted for a national Health Service Journal Value in Healthcare Award, with the winners to be announced next month.

Speaking last month, the trust’s deputy chief operating officer Jane Schofield said: “Everyone has put so much effort into improving the care we provide for stroke patients in Worcestershire.

“It is great to see the hard work really making a difference for our patients.”

It is important to act quickly when someone begins to show signs of a stroke to limit the possible damage.

Signs of a stroke include the patient’s face falling, inability to raise their arms and slurred speech.

If someone exhibits any of these symptoms always call 999.