A centralised stroke unit at Carlisle's Cumberland Infirmary

Building work has now been completed on the Hyper Acute Stroke Unit (HASU) at the Cumberland Infirmary which will see patients from all over the area – including west Cumbria - sent straight to Carlisle if a stroke is expected.

There will be no longer be any urgent stroke services at the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven. NHS bosses say the changes will mean patients have access to a specialist stroke team - made up of consultants, nurses and therapists - 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The team at the HASU is now working together to get the unit up and running. Some patients who would normally have been treated at the Cumberland Infirmary are already being treated in the purpose built unit.

New teams have also been introduced to work with patients who have been discharged home to help manage their conditions. These cover Copeland and Workington as well as the team based in Carlisle and Eden.

A spokesman for North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust said: "We are yet to announce an official full opening date for the HASU as we are ensuring the staff are used to the new unit’s systems and processes before beginning to admit patients from West Cumbria as we agreed following the public consultation in 2016 into how stroke services are delivered in north Cumbria."

The spokesman added that over the past two years, considerable work has been undertaken to develop the HASU including design of the purpose-built unit, recruitment of additional specialist staff including two new consultants.

"The new unit will mean that people who are suspected of having a stroke will have immediate access to specialist services which will save lives and reduce the long term impact of strokes," said the spokesman. "From the moment the ambulance is called, paramedics will alert the HASU to say a patient is on the way and carry out tests in the ambulance on the way. When they arrive at CIC patients will be met by a stroke specialist and taken straight to HASU. We are aiming for the time from arrival to treatment to be within 30 minutes which is a much improved service for patients across north Cumbria."

The unit will have capacity for 10 stroke patients where they can spend up to 72 hours being cared for around the clock by the team of doctors, nurses and therapists.

The patient will then be transferred to the acute stroke and rehabilitation ward at either CIC or West Cumberland Hospital or discharged back to their home where they will be supported by the ESSD teams.

The Trust hopes that patients will begin to be admitted from west Cumbria "very soon".