23/04/2009

NI Stroke Patients Faring Better, Says Charity Boss

While a quarter of UK stroke patients are still not given best treatment - by receiving a stay in a dedicated stroke unit - those in Northern Ireland are receiving better care than previously.

An audit by the Royal College of Physicians found improvements in stroke care in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

But it also found many patients were still not receiving the rapid attention and diagnostic tests recommended to minimise the risk of serious damage.

However, while a government expert has said the National Stroke Strategy - introduced in 2007 - needed more time to take full effect, a local charity has lauded the improvement in NI.

Overall care in Northern Ireland stroke units has improved by 12% since 2006.

Andrew Dougal, Chief Executive Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke (pictured) said that he is extremely pleased that in Northern Ireland an average of 59% of stroke patients will spend more than 90% of their hospital stay in a stroke unit.

He said that in each of the eight performance indicators those admitted to a Stroke Unit do better on every count.
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For example, twice as many patients in a stroke unit now have their mood assessed before discharge.

However, one hospital whose stroke unit was seen as a model for many years has dropped from the top 25% to the lowest 25%.

Mr Dougal said this was due to a combination of factors.

These include stroke and elderly care beds being reduced in number from 36 to 24 and any medical patients being inappropriately allocated to the stroke unit.

This may be caused by the pressure from targets in Accident & Emergency and in cancer cases, he explained today, noting that the clinical outcomes in no way reflect the ongoing dedication and commitment of the staff.

"Congratulations are due to Belfast City Hospital and Tyrone County Hospital for moving from the middle performance level to the top 25%," he continued.

"The Erne Hospital has improved again.

"Its level of performance is exemplary and the staff of the stroke unit at the Erne Hospital are to be commended for their exceptionally high level of achievement, with 100% in four performance indicators and a score of 90% or more in seven areas of care," Mr Dougal concluded.

(BMcC/JM)

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