Old person hospital admissionThe Sentinel Stroke National Audit Programme (SSNAP), an official audit of stroke services commissioned by the NHS, has shown that further improvement in stroke care is needed, and highlights concerns over NHS staffing levels.

SSNAP aims to improve the quality of stroke care by auditing stroke services against evidence-based standards, and national and local benchmarks. Building on 15 years of experience delivering the National Sentinel Stroke Audit (NSSA) and the Stroke Improvement National Audit Programme (SINAP), SSNAP is a new model of healthcare quality improvement through near real-time data collection, analysis and reporting on the quality and outcomes of stroke care.

Results from SSNAP’s biennial acute organisational audit have been now launched and offer a comprehensive insight into acute stroke services within England, Wales and Northern Ireland, including national and hospital level performance against 10 key indicators of acute stroke service organisation.

Juliet Bouverie, Chief Executive of the Stroke Association, said: “Across the country, hospitals, stroke units and dedicated NHS teams are leading the way for stroke treatment, and it’s clear that more lives are being saved as a result. The news that brain scanning times have improved, and that stroke patients are receiving clot busting treatment more quickly, is particularly welcome.

“High quality stroke care and treatment should be available to everyone who needs it. However, these latest figures reveal a shocking postcode lottery of stroke care. In some areas, stroke patients still wait over 12 hours for a vital brain scan. When people are denied swift treatment, such as brain scans, their recoveries are put at risk.

“The figures also lay bare an alarming shortage of stroke consultants and specialist nurses. This shortage must be urgently addressed: we need highly-skilled and properly resourced health professionals who can support stroke survivors on the road to recovery, deliver the urgent, cutting-edge treatment they need, and provide basic care on hospital wards.

“Major strides have been made in the way stroke is treated in hospital, but the same is not true when people return home. Too many people feel abandoned after their stroke, as they are not given the right support to begin their rehabilitation.

“Without a stroke strategy in place, the progress we’ve made in stroke care will be lost. Clinical leaders have joined the Stroke Association in a call to the Government and NHS for a renewed national focus on stroke."