'I was lucky and survived NHS postcode lottery - the next person might not be so fortunate'

Phil Woodford
-Credit: (Image: The Stroke Association)

A 53-year-old forced to retire after suffering a stroke has said he still counts himself as fortunate not to have fallen victim to an NHS postcode lottery.

Phil Woodford is now concerned the next person might not be so lucky, as the wait for a 24-hour thrombectomy service in Lancashire goes on.

In the case of a stroke, rapid treatment can make the difference between life and death. But for several patients in Lancashire have missed out on what is classed as being the 'gold standard' procedure because they were unlucky enough to have their stroke at a weekend.

Since October 2021, NHS England has commissioned Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, along with the trusts who run hospitals in Salford and Walton, to provide a thrombectomy service seven days a week. But due to recruitment and theatre availability those living in Lancashire and South Cumbria have been unable to have the procedure at weekends.

A full 24/7 service is not expected until September 2024. Sadly for some, this has meant the difference between life and death.


Last September, a weekend thrombectomy service was started thanks to staff working extra shifts, but due to availability the procedure has only been available on Saturdays and Sundays intermittently.

In February this year Wayne Parrott died at the Royal Blackburn Hospital after suffering a stroke on a Friday night. The weekend when Wayne died was one where staff were unable to provide the service.

The weekend service has now been completely suspended with hospital bosses keen to only introduce it if it can be consistent. Staff recruitment is underway and a second angiogram theatre is currently under construction at Preston.

The lack of a seven-day service was highlighted last November during an inquest into the death of Sarah Read from Burnley. The 31-year-old, who had been forced to terminate a pregnancy due to complications with an existing heart condition, was another candidate for a thrombectomy but treatment was delayed due to her stroke being diagnosed at Preston 'out-of-hours'.

Sarah Read takes a selfie with her partner Andy
Sarah and her partner Andy -Credit:LancsLive

Sarah died in August 2022. Just over six months later another death was attributed to the lack of a weekend thrombectomy service in Lancashire.

Edna Moss died at Rivington Park Nursing Home in Chorley in February 2023. The 79-year-old had previously been admitted to hospital with a stroke but a thrombectomy couldn't be carried out within the ideal timeframe because it was a weekend.

The lack of a seven-day thrombectomy service in Lancashire has been ongoing for years. Although Phil Woodford was "one of the lucky ones" insofar as he survived his stroke, on a weekend in August 2016, a thrombectomy would have resulted in a better outcome and quicker recovery.

Phil, now 53, has recently been forced to retire due to ill health. His stroke has left him with left-sided weakness and problems with his short-term memory.

"The probability is that my recovery would have been a lot quicker and easier in terms of life-long disability," Phil, from near Preston, said. "A thrombectomy would result in 350 people a year not suffering life-long disabilities."

Phil, who previously worked in the NHS himself, is critical of funding not being ring-fenced for a regional thrombectomy service. After the inquest into the death of Sarah Read, NHS England boss Professor Sir Stephen Powis, confirmed the seven-day service at Preston will be operational by September 2024.

A spokesperson for Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Royal Preston Hospital, said: "We have spoken and written to Ms Walsh to offer our sincere condolences on the death of her husband and to confirm that an investigation will take place.

"We remain committed to operating a weekend Thrombectomy service as soon as we have sufficient numbers of the specialist colleagues needed to run this on a consistent and sustainable basis."