HINCHINGBROOKE Hospital in Huntingdon will stop immediate treatment of stroke patients from next year – to improve their chances of recovery.

Huntingdonshire stroke patients will no longer be taken to Hinchingbrooke Hospital. Instead, NHS Cambridgeshire this week launched a consultation on how long stroke patients should stay at Addenbrooke's in Cambridge or Peterborough's new district hospital.

The public is offered three choices: whether patients from the district are transferred to Hinchingbrooke after three days (the primary care trust's preferred option) or seven days or whether their entire treatment and recovery takes place in one or other of the city hospitals.

At present, all stroke care is provided at Hinchingbrooke Hospital, except for those patients who may be eligible to receive clot-busting drugs, who are taken directly to either Addenbrooke's or Peterborough hospitals by ambulance, where specialist stroke teams able to administer these drugs are already in place.

The PCT says it is now recognised that the first hours after a stroke are very important in determining a patient's outcome and reducing the risk of death and disability.

"The care Hinchingbrooke provides to stroke patients is of a high standard," a spokesman said. "However in light of considerable changes to the national approach to managing stroke in recent years, the National Stroke Strategy for England has set out the need for considerable changes in the way services for people with a stroke are delivered.

"Modern stroke care requires fast access to specialist physicians and diagnostic equipment 24 hours a day. This is currently not possible at Hinchingbrooke and, being a small district hospital, there is not a large enough number of stroke patients to make this viable and to ensure the specialist skills of staff required to treat the early 'hyperacute' phase of stroke."

NHS Cambridgeshire says it wants to make use of the resources available at local trusts, to ensure the best possible outcomes for all patients, focusing the immediate diagnosis and treatment of all strokes at the specialist units at Addenbrooke's and Peterborough hospitals, while continuing to use Hinchingbrooke for stroke care after the initial period.

Christine Macleod, medical director at NHS Cambridgeshire, said on Monday: "Management of stroke, particularly in the first few hours, has changed considerably and, following national guidance, we have reviewed how acute services are delivered.

"Our proposals are in line with recommendations from the National Stroke Strategy that new models of care need to be developed in order to ensure the best outcomes for patients who have had a stroke."

The 12-week consultation will continue until December 5, with a decision on one of the three options being taken in January next year.

INFORMATION: Visit the 'Have your say' pages of the PCT's website www.cambridgeshire.nhs.uk/Have-your-say to find out more and download a copy of the consultation document. If you belong to a group or organisation, you can invite the trust to one of your meetings to talk about the proposals and give your views. Call free on 0800 279 2535, ring 01223 72588 or e-mail Yourviews@cambridgeshire.nhs.uk