The Barts Health response to the pandemic is about more than the coronavirus – people still suffered from life-threatening conditions such as stroke during the height of the pandemic and it was important that they had access to the best possible care.
The trust’s stroke service team, based at The Royal London Hospital, continued to expand and deliver cutting edge care throughout the pandemic, with little additional staff and beds that were instead allocated to Covid care. Along with other urgent general, acute, trauma and emergency care, stroke work continued whilst having to adapt to an environment in which Covid was always a risk.
The unit successfully expanded to deliver mechanical thrombectomy 24/7 in November 2020 at the beginning of the second wave. For patients who are suitable, this treatment can entirely remove the effects of the stroke. As a result, the unit is one of the busiest in the country, providing safe and timely care to people across north east London and as far afield as Peterborough, Norwich and Canterbury.
The team have performed over 80 procedures this year and are on course to help 300 patients who would otherwise have had a severe stroke. Since moving the service 24/7 they have jumped from seeing 10 cases to around 25 a month.
During the pandemic the service increasingly harnessed artificial intelligence (AI) to get patients into specialist care quickly. With the support of NHSX, Barts Health is testing a suite of tools powered by AI to help clinicians increase the speed with which they make time-critical treatment decisions for patients with stroke, to determine which patients will benefit from transferral to a specialist centre.
The combination of a 24/7 service performed by expert specialists, collaborating with partners across the NHS and the AI assisted stroke detection has allowed the team to continue pushing boundaries to deliver world-class care in unlikely circumstances.
The stroke and neurointerventional departments have worked closely to deliver the service.
Dr Levansri Makalanda, clinical lead for neurovascular services, said: “Since starting the 24/7 mechanical thrombectomy service, Barts Health has rapidly become one of the busiest stroke centres in the UK, helping a significant number of patients throughout the south east. The collaboration with both our clinical colleagues in the region and also medical technology companies has helped us to deliver a world-class service on the background of a pandemic.”
Dr Oliver Spooner, consultant in stroke medicine said: “Our shared vision was to be able to deliver treatment to those who may not have received it otherwise.
"New relationships have been formed with stroke departments in neighbouring counties, closely communicating to allow safe and effective care.”
Dr Paul Bhogal, consultant interventional neuroradiologist said: “We hope through using new technology we will be able to identify even more patients for treatment. In this way we can get the right patient to the right place for the right procedure as fast as possible.”
Dr Edward McKintosh, clinical director for neurosciences said: “Our teams have managed to develop and continually improve the stroke service during the peak of the Covid crisis – it is testament to the dedication of all our doctors, nurses, radiographers, and paramedics involved in delivering this remarkable achievement and I am delighted that our patients have continued to benefit from their hard work throughout the epidemic.”