STRUCTURE: An “out of hours” virtual clinical service is being launched in the North West to help support treatment for acute stroke patients.

Six acute trusts in Cumbria and Lancashire are taking part in the scheme, which will see 15 stroke consultants providing advice to patients from their homes.

The 24 hour service, which has been launched by Blackpool Teaching Hospitals Trust, will utilise Virgin Media Business high-speed broadband technology to connect eight hospital sites remotely.

The consultants will be able to interact with patients and recommend treatments using teleconferencing equipment, which will be positioned by their bedsides.

Dr Mark O’Donnell, stroke consultant at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and clinical lead for the Cumbria & Lancashire Cardiac and Stroke Network, said: “We are using this new technology to take the stroke specialists to the patient, rather than moving the patient long distances, around rural areas, to where the specialists work.

“In an acute stroke, time is of the essence and the sooner treatments can be provided, the better.”

It is believed that the service will make the NHS an annual saving of £8m.