One week after stating it would not be commenting on the Department of Health's Stroke Consultation, the Western Health and Social Care Trust have released a statement saying they are "very pleased that both the South West Acute and Altnagelvin Hospitals are part of the options being considered."

Six options were put forward by the Department of Health with two of the six securing the long-term future of Stroke Services at SWAH. The other four will lead to its closure.

Speaking on the consultation Unison Joint branch chair, Jill Weir, said that only two options are acceptable and warned that skilled professionals would be "completely lost to the area" if stroke services ceased at SWAH:

"There are only really two options that we could support. Three options will see closure and the remaining option will see eventual closure and obviously none of those are acceptable," she explained.

Speaking on the impact that closure would have on to staff numbers at the hospital Ms. Weir said it was impossible to tell:

"There are so many staff involved. From the point of call to treatment in the hospital. It is hard to put a figure on the number of staff that this could affect and the long-term ramifications that it would have. But it won't just affect stroke unit ward staff, it will affect physiotherapy staff, occupational therapy staff, speech and language staff and other support staff," she said before issuing a warning about the long term future that a closure at SWAH would have on the entire Trust area:

"What I would say is that we could see a lot of skilled professionals, right up to consultant level, who could be completely lost to the area if SWAH is closed. There is an impression that these staff will move to other areas of the Trust and I would be very sceptical that this would automatically happen."

In the statement from the WHSCT, Chief Executive Anne Kilgallen said:

"By consulting on the configuration of stroke services, Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland is following through on established policy that has been set out in the Bengoa Report and in Delivering Together. This is about achieving the best possible outcomes for patients and securing sustainable services."

The issue of sustainability was addressed in the consultation document from the Department of Health with both options pertaining to the retention of stroke services at SWAH containing the following paragraph:

"We recognise that the South West Acute Hospital (SWAH) performs well against standards and has a relatively small number of annual admissions. The performance of other hospitals with smaller levels of admissions would suggest that the SWAH's performance is not one which can be easily replicated elsewhere. In looking at how services are provide (sic) in the future, we need to look at the sustainability not just of individual sites, but of our network of services as a whole,"

Ms Weir when commenting on sustainability of services was in no doubt that SWAH stroke services had a very strong case in their favour:

"I think that the argument about sustainability of stroke services at SWAH is a red herring. We are the longest serving stroke unit and have been in operation since 1994 and if that is not evidence enough of the long-term sustainability of the unit then I don't know what is."