A CONTROVERSIAL new stroke unit being set up in Carlisle has hit delays - because bosses are struggling to recruit staff.

The new Hyper Acute Stroke Unit (HASU) is being established at the Cumberland Infirmary.

Health chiefs say it will provide a specialised service not currently available in the area, improving outcomes for patients and helping to attract new stroke consultants to Cumbria.

But it will mean patients from west Cumbria who currently go to Whitehaven will instead be taken straight to Carlisle - leading to fears over delays.

Now it has emerged that the opening of the new HASU has been delayed, due to difficulties appointing key staff.

Health campaigners raised the issue with directors of North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust at its annual meeting in Penrith this week.

Jon Ward, of the West Cumbrians’ Voice for Healthcare campaign group, said they had heard there had been delays.

“We’ve heard that the hyper acute unit is behind schedule in being set up, and one of the problems is recruitment. Can we get an update?” he asked.

Medical director Rod Harpin admitted there had been some issues - but stressed that the delay was only a few months.

He said that in the meantime, they are ploughing ahead with other key parts of the stroke plan, including discharging patients at an earlier stage with support.

“We are behind schedule but I think the main objective is to get those building blocks in place but also carry on the process of recruitmeng stroke physicians, which are a rare specialism across the country.

“Focusing stroke on one site is still our objective and that will be delivered,” he said.

Mandy Nagra, the trust’s interim chief operating officer, added that they are looking at other ways to address the shortage of traditional stroke specialists - such as upskilling existing staff.

“We are reviewing the workforce model, looking at how we can use our current workforce innovatively and stop this delay. A lot of work is going on in the background and positive steps are being made,” she said.