September 16, 2008

Stroke Care Improving but Variations Remain Across NHS

By Mike Waites Health Correspondent

The national audit by the Royal College of Physicians found hospital treatment and care of people suffering so-called "mini strokes" has got significantly better in the last two years.But it warned hospitals still needed to recognise strokes as a medical emergency and that patients left with disability needed high- quality rehabilitation services and longer-term support.It called on hospital chiefs to ensure all stroke patients were admitted to specialist units and urged hospitals to increase nurse staffing amid evidence of shortages in "many units".In Yorkshire significant differences were found in treatment. Best performing included units at Airedale, Barnsley and Leeds hospitals, while services rated as least-well organised were at Doncaster and Scarborough.Patients at Airedale, Bassetlaw, Harrogate and Scarborough hospitals waited on average less than four hours for a CT scan on weekdays compared to up to 24 hours at remaining units. Only Scarborough hospital staff maintained the standard at weekends while in Barnsley patients waited on average until after the weekend for a scan.In six hospitals, patients waited more than two days for MRI scans on weekdays and only two units provided MRI scans within 48 hours to patients suffering a stroke at weekends.Joe Korner, of the Stroke Association, said: "At last we are seeing all of the hard work in campaigning for better stroke services and the development of the national stroke strategy paying off," he said. "But we have a long way to go."Health Minister Ann Keen said the Government had invested 105m in stroke services, adding: "The report shows that stroke patients can expect to receive tailored and expert treatment on the NHS, with 96 per cent of hospitals in England now offering specialist acute stroke care and 98 per cent having a consultant with specialist knowledge of stroke."

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