Sharing expertise in stroke 

24/04/2017 00:00 
UCLH’s stroke team is on a mission to set up a unit in Malawi.

Four members of the Trust’s renowned hyper-acute stroke unit (HASU) have visited the southeast African country and are drawing up plans to open the nation’s first stroke centre.

With infectious diseases being treated better, people are living longer and strokes are becoming increasingly common in the developing world.

At the Queen Elizabeth Central hospital in Malawi, where the new unit will be based, stroke is one of the most common reasons for admission and the third biggest cause of death.

Despite this burden, there is no dedicated treatment service.

However, many of the individual components exist and could be brought together, with the right training, funding and expertise.

Dr Robert Simister, HASU’s clinical lead, said: “We felt that the Queen Elizabeth Central hospital was in so much need for a dedicated stroke service.

“But, equally we could see that all the ingredients were there to set up a really good unit and so we have resolved to do everything we can to make it happen.”

Also on December's fact-finding mission were Dr Laura Benjamin (clinical lecturer in  neurology), Simone Browning (research manager in stroke medicine) and Selina Edwards, HASU’s nurse lead.

Plans include applying for funding, refurbishing and equipping an existing building and bringing Malawian staff to UCLH for training.

It is also hoped that HASU staff will be able to go on rotation to the new unit and that it will carry out valuable research into the causes of stroke.

Dr Benjamin, who recognised the need for a stroke unit while doing her PhD in Malawi, hopes the unit will be up and running within a year.

She said: “I hope the UK partners (which include UCLH, University College London and University of Liverpool) will also take something away from the project.

“I think that the idea of spending a few months in Malawi on a clinical rotation, or for a longer period for a stroke research project, will seem very exciting and could help us attract some very competitive individuals.

“Plus, the challenge for the clinician of going back to basics, and relying on their clinical acumen, will only enhance their medical skills.”

Selina said that specialist nurses are essential to the success of any stroke unit.

“Stroke nurses literally save lives.  We want to take our experience of an empowered nursing workforce to Malawi, to ensure the success and sustainability of this crucial service.

“From a nursing perspective, this stands to be an amazing project for all those involved.”

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