Improvement in city stroke care standard

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CARE for stroke victims in Sheffield hospitals is steadily improving, an influential national survey has discovered.

The National Sentinel Stroke Audit has been checking on standards in the field for the last 12 years and overall found 88 per cent of patients now spend at least some time in a stroke unit – up from 74 per cent just three years ago.

Patients treated in stroke units usually fare better than those looked after on general wards.

In Sheffield 84 per cent of patients were given brain scans within 24 hours of their strokes, well above the national average of 70 per cent.

Almost all – 99 per cent – were given appropriate drugs within 48 hours, again well ahead of national standards.

Physiotherapy and occupational therapy checks were not given as quickly as elsewhere in the country, however.

Just over half of patients were given an occupational therapy assessment within four days and 79 per cent were given a physiotherapy check.

The audit says too many patients are still treated on general wards where specialist stroke care is not carried out quickly enough, putting sufferers at risk of later complications.

It says a major advertising campaign on spotting the first signs of a stroke has not had a long-lasting effect and that ongoing public education is required.

The series of hard-hitting TV adverts outlined symptoms such as numbness in the face and arms, as well as speech difficulties.

The audit looked at 93 stroke victims treated by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Last October a new dedicated stroke centre opened at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, which the trust says has further improved the city’s treatment standards.

Amanda Jones, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals’ nurse consultant for stroke care, said: “We are delighted our hard work is paying off and we have managed to improve the service from a good one to one which really gives Sheffield stroke patients some of the best care in the country.”

She added: “Sheffield has been fortunate in having a well-established, comprehensive stroke service but, although the service was good, it needed to further develop and improve, particularly in the acute assessment and treatment of patients.”

Chesterfield’s stroke care was rated the best in the East Midlands area, with 77 per cent of patients receiving a brain scan within 24 hours.

Nearly 40 per cent of stroke victims were admitted directly to a specialist unit and 92 per cent of patients were given a physiotherapy check within three days, which is above the national average.

Professor Tony Rudd, chair of the Intercollegiate Stroke Network, said stroke care in the UK has ‘dramatically improved’, but added: “There are still many aspects of care, particularly in rehabilitation and longer-term management, that need to be developed.”