As the consultation into the future of stroke services in Northern Ireland enters its final weeks it has emerged that the stroke unit at South West Acute Hospital is the best performing unit in Northern Ireland, and third best in the UK, excluding Scotland.

In the Department of Health produced consultation four of the six options put forward would see stroke services at SWAH cease to exist.

Stroke Units in England Wales and Northern Ireland are measured using the Sentinel Stroke National Audit Programme (SSNAP) and in their most recent set of results, based on figures from January to March of this year, SWAH’s stroke unit has attained an ‘A’ grade and is the only stroke unit in Northern Ireland to do so.

The three hospitals which are included in all six options in the stroke consultation all saw their ratings fall. The Royal in Belfast fell from an 'A' to a 'B'. Craigavon fell from a 'B' to a 'C' while Altnagelvin saw their score fall from a 'D' to an 'E'.

This fall in Altnagelvin’s score sees it become the worst performing stroke unit, according to SSNAP, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

A second public meeting in Fermanagh on the consultation is due to be held tomorrow night (Wednesday) at the Killyhevlin Hotel, beginning at 7pm. At the last meeting the crowd were clear in venting both their frustration and anger at the fact that SWAH was earmarked for closure in any of the six options put forward.

The Western Health and Social Care Trust currently have two stroke units in its Trust area, SWAH and Altnagelvin.

Below is a comparison between the two units on some of the key measurables used in SSNAP:

Median time to get a brain scan: Altnagelvin 56 mins. SWAH 24 mins ( fast brain scan time in NI).

Median Time to get into a stroke unit: Altnagelvin 19 hours 44 minutes. SWAH One hour 28 minutes (Fastest in NI)

Median Time to receive thrombolysis (clot-busting drugs): Altnagelvin 65mins. SWAH 26 minutes (Fastest in NI)

Median Time to be assessed by Stroke Consultant : Altnagelvin 19 hours. SWAH Six minutes (Fastest in NI)