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Trust calls for better ways of measuring 999 responses to stroke

Press release - 3 February 2010

South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Trust (SECAmb) supports a recommendation to introduce a better form of measuring emergency responses to stroke.

The recommendation was outlined in the National Audit Office’s (NAO) Progress in Improving Stroke Care report published today (3/02).

This report looks at how stroke care has changed over the last four years, since the NAO’s 2005 report, Reducing brain damage: faster access to better stroke care and to what extent these changes have improved the value for money of stroke care provision nationally.  It also considers the risks and issues to be managed to ensure that stroke care services continue to improve in future.

It calls for the Department of the Health to consider whether ambulance trusts should use measures such as call-to-hospital time as a way of evaluating the effectiveness of the emergency response to stroke.

SECAmb clinicians make a priority call to hospitals with a specialist stroke unit to inform them of the arrival of a stroke patient.  This was part of an innovative pathway developed by the Trust in 2007.  It ensures that stroke patients, who may be eligible for thrombolysis, get the proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment, within a three-hour window. 

The Trust strongly supports this recommendation to measure the time it takes for a clinician to transport a stroke patient to a place of definitive care once a priority call has been made.

SECAmb’s stroke lead, paramedic David Davis, said: “The ambulance service needs a clinically meaningful standard to measure the effectiveness of its care to stroke patients.  We believe a call-to-hospital standard would ultimately lead to an improved outcome for stroke patients.”

The NAO’s report, for which SECAmb provided key information, also calls for primary care trusts to ensure that hospitals provide ambulance trusts with individual and aggregated patient outcome data so that further improvements in ambulance responses to stroke patients can be made.

David Davis said: “For the ambulance service to continue to provide an effective and quality service to stroke patients it is important that we have patient outcome data.  This will ensure that the pathways we have put in place deliver the improvements in care that we anticipate.”

Despite these challenges, and as outlined in the report, significant progress has been made to improve stroke care since the NAO’s report in 2005.

By the end of March 2010 eligible stroke patients will have access to stroke thrombolysis across the South East Coast region 24/7.

David Davis added: “This has been achieved through close partnership working between us, the stroke networks and acute hospital providers. This enhanced pathway will mean that patients are able to access this potentially life-saving treatment as we will be able to bypass A&E hospitals to on-call stroke centres whilst a telemedicine solution is being developed across the region.”

The Trust has also led the way in promoting the national FAST campaign in a number of ways including using ambulances as mobile advertising boards. 

Six ambulances were wrapped in FAST graphics calling on the public to dial 999 in the event of someone showing signs of a stroke.

During the very successful national FAST campaign (April to June 2009) stroke calls increased by 50 per cent compared to the same period the previous year.

SECAmb, in partnership with South West Ambulance Service NHS Trust and the Stroke Association, has also developed a national public awareness day, Know Your Blood Pressure, which is taking place on Saturday, 17 April 2010.

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