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NHS stroke care getting better

But there still remain 'unacceptable variations across the country' experts warn

Mark Gould

Monday, 25 January 2016

The number of hospitals providing "A" class stroke care has more than doubled in the past year according to the latest research. The eleventh report from the Sentinel Stroke National Audit Programme (SSNAP) reveals  that 36 stroke services scored an overall "A" score for the quality of care they provide for patients demonstrating that a world class service is achievable.

The SSNAP says this represents a marked increase in the number of hospitals achieving the highest possible banding this quarter, up from 14 hospitals in April-June 2015. The improvements in SSNAP results are symptomatic of the continued efforts made by clinicians to use SSNAP data as a tool for continuous quality improvement to the stroke services they provide to patients. The genuine commitment to submitting timely and complete data each quarter and acting on audit results to improve patient care should be celebrated.

Participation in the audit continues to be an unprecedented success. In the latest quarter, 19,971 patient records were submitted for analysis within the 72 hour results – this is 98% of the expected stroke cases in this period – while the majority of stroke services are now achieving the highest case ascertainment band. This is testament to the honest self-reporting of SSNAP teams and their commitment to entering all stroke records to SSNAP ahead of each quarterly deadline.

Though SSNAP has set stringent, aspirational targets, latest audit results reinforce our belief that the top score is achievable and sustainable over time. These standards have been set to encourage hospitals to both identify where improvements are needed and drive change. It is also encouraging to see yet another decrease in the number of services scoring an ‘E’ across the quarter. These changes reflect the continued efforts of providers to improve stroke care for patients in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Professor Pippa Tyrrell, Associate Director of the RCP Stroke Programme, said: "Measuring the quality of care is an essential component for quality improvement. The SSNAP provides very high quality information that can help professionals, patients, and commissioners use and develop their services for the future.

"As in the tenth report, it is encouraging to see key improvements in the national results for stroke care both in the first 72 hours of care and in post-acute care processes since data collection began.

"The power of SSNAP data is huge and has enabled a much stronger case to be made for improvements to stroke services, which is allowing commissioners and clinicians alike to offer the best possible care to patients.

"However, there still remains unacceptable variation across the country. SSNAP has moved to absolute measurement of results which means that all teams are capable of showing improvement."

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