A new Stroke Emergency Assessment Centre (SEAC) has opened at Aintree University Hospital, the first of its kind in the UK.

The £1.5 million purpose-built assessment centre sits alongside Aintree’s Emergency Department and will provide specialist care for stroke patients, aiming to minimise the impact of strokes and improve the chances of a good outcome following treatment. This facility will allow the stroke team to deliver thrombolysis, a treatment for acute strokes which breaks down blood clots, helping to restore blood flow to the brain.

From 15 August, suspected stroke patients will bypass the Emergency Department and will instead be reviewed in the Stroke Emergency Assessment Centre.

Anyone in the North Mersey area who suspects they or someone they know is having a stroke should phone 999 and ask for an ambulance or attend the Stroke Emergency Assessment Centre as a walk-in patient.

Following assessment and treatment in the SEAC, patients who have had a stroke will be admitted to the Hyper-Acute Stroke Unit (HASU) at Aintree Hospital. After treatment here, patients will either be able to continue their recovery at home or may be transferred to Acute stroke in Aintree Hospital, Broadgreen Hospital or Southport Hospital, depending on which is nearest to their home.

Opening last year, the HASU is dedicated to caring for people in the critical 72-hour period after a stoke occurs.

Dr Rebecca Hanlon, Medical Director at Aintree University Hospital, said: “The Hyper Acute Stroke Unit, which opened last year, marked phase one of our ongoing stroke improvement work and I’m delighted that the SEAC has now followed as phase two. We’ve already seen the significant difference our HASU has made in diagnosing and treating people, thanks to an increase in specialist care, staff and tests. Taking stroke patients out of the Emergency Department completely into a stand-alone centre will further improve the experience of patients in the region.”

Aintree Hospital’s close proximity to The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust, the specialist neurosciences hospital also means that local patients are able to receive thrombectomy within the required time window which is typically up to six hours after stroke symptoms begin.

Dr Deb Lowe, National Clinical Director for Stroke Medicine for NHS England, previous Cheshire and Merseyside Stroke Network lead and Stroke doctor in Wirral, Merseyside visited the SEAC this week. She said: “After the successful opening of the North Mersey Hyper-Acute Stroke Unit, I was delighted to visit the new Stroke Emergency Assessment Centre, which is a fantastic improvement for stroke patients in the region, enabling them to access specialist stroke care as quickly as possible, which is critical to achieving a good outcome for patients who have had a stroke – Time is Brain! Congratulations to all the amazing NHS staff that have made this possible.”

Dr Nibu Thomas, Clinical Director of stroke services at LUHFT said, “The team and I are proud to be a part of the country’s first Stroke Emergency Assessment Centre, which will provide rapid access to assessment and treatment.

The opening of the SEAC comes following years of collaboration between different sites, including Aintree University Hospitals, the Royal Liverpool and Southport and Ormskirk NHS Trust as well as different specialities working together, such as stroke medicine, radiology, emergency medicine and acute medicine to name a few.

The SEAC, combined with the HASU, will enable us to provide the very best of care to stroke patients in the North Mersey region. Congratulations to everyone involved in its successful opening.’”

The main symptoms of a suspected stroke can be identified by the word FAST:

  • Face - the face may have dropped in one side and the person may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have drooped.
  • Arms - the person may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of weakness or numbness in one arm.
  • Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake; they may also have problems understanding what you're saying to them.
  • Time – it's time to dial 999 immediately if you notice any of these signs or symptoms