Tamworth Telestroke service to benefit North West NSW patients

September 01, 2021

Stroke patients from across New England North West NSW will now have 24-hour access to an innovative new telehealth service as part of a $21.7 million  initiative being rolled out across the state.

The NSW Telestroke Service, now available at Tamworth Hospital, offers people living in regional and rural areas increased access to life-saving stroke diagnosis and treatment. It does this by connecting local doctors to specialist stroke physicians via video consultation in the local emergency department.

“This crucial service will provide stroke patients with rapid diagnosis and treatment from the state’s expert clinicians,” Susan Heyman, Executive Director, Rural and Regional Health Services said.

“Telestroke helps our local emergency and intensive care doctors to decide the most appropriate treatment option for each patient. These options include urgent treatment to dissolve a clot with ‘clot-busting’ thrombolysis here in Tamworth, or urgently transferring the patient to a specialised stroke centre for more complex treatment.”

Ms Heyman said the establishment of the NSW Telestroke Service builds on the expertise and dedication of local stroke clinicians.

“Tamworth neurologists Dr James Hughes and Dr Lisa Dark provide specialised advice to ensure Tamworth Hospital stroke patients receive excellent care, and have the best possible chance of recovery after stroke,” Ms Heyman said.

“The NSW Telestroke Service will further enhance their service, giving emergency department staff access to highly specialised stroke advice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, after hours, on weekends and when our local specialists are on well-deserved leave.”

Every year, around 19,000 residents in NSW have a stroke. More than a third of people hospitalised for stroke in NSW are from regional, remote or rural areas.

Tamworth Hospital Telestroke Project Officer Rebecca Hosking said the hospital assesses more than 340 suspected strokes, and treats 260 actual strokes per year.

“Stroke is a time critical medical emergency that can kill up to 1.9 million brain cells per minute,” Ms Hosking said.

“It’s really important that people learn to recognise stroke symptoms and call an ambulance immediately, to give stroke sufferers the best chance of a successful outcome.”

The F.A.S.T test is an easy way to spot the signs of stroke. FAST stands for:
• Face - Has their mouth drooped?
• Arms - Can the person lift both arms?
• Speech - Is the person’s speech slurred? Do they understand you?
• Time - Is critical. If you see any of these signs call 000 straight away.

Implementation of the NSW Telestroke Service is a collaboration between the Prince of Wales Hospital, eHealth NSW, the Agency for Clinical Innovation and the NSW Ministry of Health. The service has helped more than 1000 patients in NSW since its launch in March 2020 and will expand to up to 23 sites across NSW by June 2022.

The NSW Telestroke Service is a $21.7 million NSW Government election commitment announced in March 2019 and jointly funded by the NSW and Commonwealth Governments.