A GRIEVING widower is calling for change in how stroke victims are treated in West Cumbria after his wife had to travel in an ambulance for more than an hour to receive care.

Pauline Cattanach suffered a stroke while at her Cleator Moor home on November 8 and was taken to the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle, where she died five weeks later, aged 75.

The 40-mile journey by ambulance to the hospital took an hour and 15 minutes and her husband, Grant believes the extra time contributed to her death.

As part of the redesign of stroke services, all potential stroke patients in North Cumbria are now taken to a hyper-acute stroke unit at the Cumberland Infirmary for assessment and treatment by a specialist team.

But Mr Cattanach believes patients should be stabilised at the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven first, before making the long journey on a 'sub-standard' road to Carlisle for further treatment.

“Everywhere else where they have these stroke units, the ambulance calls in at the nearest hospital, i.e. West Cumberland, and stabilises them first," he said. "Time is of the essence because every minute counts after that.

“What happened is, they passed the West Cumberland Hospital after 10 minutes of leaving home and then spent another 65 minutes travelling to Carlisle with her. That time I saw as vital.

“It has happened to others who have died on that journey.”

Mr Cattanach said he wanted future stroke victims to avoid having to travel to Carlisle before they are stabilised.

He said: “I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a stroke unit there. I’m not denying the work that the stroke unit do. The work they did before she died, they did try to save her life. But I don’t think the journey from Cleator Moor to Carlisle did her any good. They are passing a perfectly good hospital and all it’s about is resources. She’s not unique and sadly, there will be others.”

Mr Cattanach said he feared that West Cumberland Hospital was being 'wound down' and would be turned into a 'glorified rest home'.

He added: “The staff at West Cumberland Hospital are excellent. It’s not their fault. It’s the people running the Trust.”

Mr Cattanach has also raised concerns over his wife’s end-of life care at the Cumberland Infirmary.

He said: “We were told as a family that Pauline would be made comfortable in her final days. What we experienced was horrific. She was put on Pathway, no food, no water and sometimes no morphine and when she finally passed away, she was six stone.”

Mr Cattanach has written to Copeland MP Trudy Harrison about the issues he has raised.

She said: “I offer my deepest sympathies to Mr Cattanach for the loss of his wife and I am concerned to hear his account of the circumstances surrounding his wife’s care.

“I encourage Mr Cattanach to write to me as he plans to, and I will liaise with him directly over funding, services and all the issues he raises.”

A spokesperson from the North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust said: “We would like to express our sincere condolences to Mr Cattanach and we are sorry that he feels that the care his wife received from us was not to the standard expected. We understand how upsetting and distressing this has been for Mrs Cattanach’s family.

“The Trust remains committed to delivering high quality patient care, including end of life care, and we are speaking to Mr Cattanach to discuss his concerns directly and to clarify understanding in relation to the care his wife was given.”

The Hyper Acute Stroke Unit (HASU) opened at Cumberland Infirmary in December 2019 to provide a seven-day service in order to 'improve quality, resilience and equity of stroke care' for all people living in North Cumbria.

Find out more about stroke services at: www.ncic.nhs.uk/services/stroke and how the palliative care team support patients and families at: www.ncic.nhs.uk/services/palliative-care