Five acute trusts across Surrey are working in collaboration to provide a 24-hour service for stroke patients.

The Telestroke Network Service is based on high-definition video-conferencing technology from Polycom, which enables consultants to offer advice on appropriate treatment without having to see patients first-hand.

It is particularly important for stroke patients to be assessed quickly as drug treatment for blood clots – thrombolysis – needs to be administered within four and a half hours; but it is not appropriate for all patients.

The Telestroke Network Service has been supported by the Surrey Stroke and Heart Network and funded through £250,000 from NHS South of England.

Two Polycom Practioner carts have been installed at each of the five hospitals, while Polycom video collaboration software has been put onto laptops used by nine consultant stroke physicians, who are on call from their homes.

Using the laptops, the consultants can connect to the carts and use a camera to see the results of an examination conducted by another clinician.

Consultants can also view CT scans of the patient taken in hospital and advise on the best course of treatment.

“Rather than waste valuable time waiting for a consultant to get to a patient, now a patient can have a CT scan, be seen by triage, assessed by a stroke consultant and have a recommendation in under an hour – all while the consultant is at his or her home," said Colin Lee, senior project manager at NHS Surrey.

The Surrey Heart and Stroke Network has been pushing for the establishment of such a network for the past three years.

It is the second region in the UK to set up a network based on the Polycom software. A similar telestroke service went live across Cumbria and Lancashire last year. Other areas of the country have also introduced video-conferencing for stroke.

“Making 24/7 thrombolysis for stroke patients available at Surrey’s hospitals has been the focus of everyone in the Surrey Heart and Stroke Network for the past three years.

"We are all delighted that this has now become a reality,” said Felicity Dennis, manager of the Surrey Heart and Stroke Network.

The hospital trusts involved are; Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Frimley Park Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Epsom Hospital.