Stroke patients in Luton waiting more than an hour to reach hospital after calling 999

Stroke sufferers in Luton have to wait more than an hour to get to hospital by ambulance, new NHS data has revealed.

Experts said the priority was to get the patient to a specialist stroke centre, even if that was further away than the nearest standard hospital.

The East of England Ambulance Service, which covers 19 Clinical Commissioning Groups in the East of England, helped 664 patients who had an initial diagnosis of stroke.

The East of England Ambulance Service, which covers 19 Clinical Commissioning Groups in the East of England, helped 664 patients who had an initial diagnosis of stroke.

After calling 999, patients had to wait on average an hour and 11 minutes to get to an acute stroke centre in August.

This is in line with average national response times.

The Luton Clinical Commissioning Group area is served by the East of England Ambulance Service trust.

The trust's ambulances, which cover 19 CCGs in the East of England , helped 664 patients who had an initial diagnosis of stroke.

One in 10 had to wait an hour and 51 minutes to reach hospital.

A stroke happens when a blood vessel to the brain gets clogged or bursts, and cuts off blood and oxygen.

Alexis Kolodziej, of the Stroke Association, said: "The faster a stroke patient can receive specialist treatment the more likely they will survive and recover.

"Evidence shows that patients get better treatment and have better outcomes when they can be taken by ambulance to a larger, comprehensive stroke centres of excellence.

"In most cases, it is better for patients to travel slightly further to reach these centres than to go to a closer hospital that doesn’t offer specialist and comprehensive stroke care."

Once at the stroke center, patients had to wait up to two hours and 34 minutes minutes for an X-ray scan.

This is crucial to determining the cause of the stroke and decide on the treatment.

Professor Nilesh Samani, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Stroke is the third biggest killer in the UK and causes over 36,000 deaths each year.

"Pioneering treatments are increasingly available for people who have had a stroke, which have been proven to save lives and reduce disability.

"They are most effective, however, when patients are treated at an early stage, and this underlines the need for strokes to be treated as swiftly as possible. For emergency services, stroke should have the same priority as heart attacks."