Cumbria Crack

New Acute Stroke Unit officially opened by extraordinary consultant

Dr Isabel Huggett and Bruce Jassi with staff on the Huggett Suite

[M]ore than 50 members of staff, patients and guests gathered on Monday to see the Trust’s Huggett Suite at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary (RLI) opened by Dr Isabel Huggett who retired in 2016. The suite, which specialises in acute stroke care and cost over £1million, was named after Dr Huggett in recognition of the contribution she made to stroke and elderly medicine during her time with the Trust.

The Huggett Suite is the first of its kind for the Trust with the nearest acute stroke units based at hospitals in Blackpool, Chorley and Preston. Now patients in North Lancashire and South Cumbria will benefit from the unit which is based in the Centenary Building, and will provide the RLI with six acute stroke beds and an assessment bay.

Dr Isabel Huggett officially opens the Huggett Suite

Dr Huggett, who started working at the RLI in 1984, said: “I am absolutely thrilled to be here today and honoured to be officially opening the unit. This acute stroke unit is a big step forward in stroke services for Lancaster and for the Trust, with access immediately from A&E. What is also good is that they have the rehab facility within the unit so that this can be started straight away. Rehabilitation has always been important and always will be so it is excellent to have this all together.”

Patients suffering a stroke will now come into the Emergency Department (ED) at the RLI to be assessed for eligibility for clot-busting treatment in the department before being transferred to the new suite. There, they will be monitored by staff specially trained to care for patients immediately after a stroke.

The suite is equipped with ceiling hoists to make lifting safer for patients and staff, continuous heart monitoring equipment, and patient therapy facilities including a therapy kitchen. The Trust has recruited registered nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy staff.

Before the suite opened, patients who had a stroke would come into ED and then go up to the Lancaster Suite, a general medical ward which houses stroke beds, before being transferred to Ward 23 for rehabilitation. Now patients will come straight to a dedicated acute stroke bed on the Huggett Suite where they can be cared for by the specialist stroke team.

Ward 23 in Medical Unit 2 at the RLI will remain as a rehabilitation facility for stroke patients who need longer term rehabilitation.

Linda Dunn, Clinical Lead for Stroke, UHMBT, who became a member of the stroke team in 2006, said: “I can honestly say that they broke the mould when they made Dr Huggett, she really has been an extraordinary doctor throughout her career. Stroke services at the RLI looked very different when I first started. Ward 23 provided stroke rehabilitation along side a number of specialities, there were no designated stroke rehab beds and acute strokes were admitted to wherever there was an empty bed.

“Fast forward to 2016, following major investment into both the development of a dedicated acute stroke unit and stroke team staffing, the Huggett Suite was borne. The designated unit, with staff skilled in the management of acute stroke, will allow us to offer our patients the very best chance of recovery. Direct access to this type of unit with close monitoring and early intervention from a multi-disciplinary team is fundamental if we are to deliver outstanding stroke care.

“I can categorically say that our patients are getting a better experience. Early performance data is suggestive that this has already led to an improved delivery of best practive interventions, which are directly associated with reducing mortality and morbidity and a shorter length of stay in hospital.”

Stroke is a medical emergency that occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted by either a blockage or rupture of an artery in the brain. The lack of blood supply starves the brain cells of oxygen and nutrients, causing brain cells to become damaged or die. This damage can have different effects, depending on where it happens in your brain.

Across the UK there are around 100,000 strokes a year. In 2015, there were 605 strokes in Morecambe Bay with the total healthcare and social care costs for this local group of patients being £13.4 million in 2015/16 – rising to £27.4 million over five years.

In 2009 only 19% of stroke patients at the Trust were seen by an occupational therapist within four days, today as many as 97.8% of patients are seen within three days. Today 97.4% patients receive a swallow screen within 24 hours (of those, 80% are getting screening within four hours of arrival to hospital) compared to 62% patients in 2009.

Patient representative Eileen Stirrup, who suffered a stroke in October 2016 and was cared for on the Lancaster Suite and Ward 23, said: “It sounds as though the unit will be much more thorough. It looks as though you will be able to get the care you need much more quickly and that is absolutely crucial with something like stroke.”

There are a lot of myths surrounding stroke such as it only affects elderly people. This is incorrect; around a quarter of strokes happen in people of working age. There are over 400 childhood strokes a year in the UK. Around a quarter of these are in children under a year old, half are in children aged 1-10 and a quarter are in children aged 11 and over. The average age of stroke has also decreased in recent years.

Sally Farnell, Information Advice and Support Coordinator for Stroke UK North Lancashire, said: “We have the priviledge of working with people at the other end of their journey after they leave hospital which gives us the opportunity to hear about the experiences they have had in hospital and we know that the first few days in hospital have a massive impact on people in the long-term. Patients often describe to us the shear terror, confusion , bewilderment and fear as a consequnce of having a stroke.

“What’s lovely now from the patients we have met through the Huggett Suite is the positive words we are hearing are such as ‘calming and caring’. That feeling of wellbeing from being on the Huggett Suite is really tangible and we know it has a fabulous impact when people are here and carries on when people go home and are better able to move on with their rehabilitation.”

John Taylor, Director of Strategy, UHMBT, said: “The new suite will support our staff and help us to provide outstanding care to patients for years to come.”

You could save your own or someone else’s life, or help limit the long-term effects of stroke, by learning to think and Act F.A.S.T.

F.A.S.T. or Face-Arms-Speech-Time is easy to remember and will help you to recognise if you or someone else is having a stroke.

Face – has their face fallen on one side? Can they smile?
Arms – can they raise both arms and keep them there?
Speech – is their speech slurred?
Time to call 999 if you see any single one of these signs of a stroke

You can find out more about strokes at or

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