Stroke patients in Lothian are receiving the poorest care in mainland Scotland after hospitals again failed to hit targets amid warnings over “significant disparity” of standards.
People who have suffered a stroke should get prompt admission to a stroke unit, a brain scan, a swallow screen to stop choking and aspirin to thin the blood and prevent another stroke.
Despite improvements, only 54 per cent of Lothian patients received the appropriate care in 2015, compared with 79 per cent in the Borders and 64 per cent in Glasgow.
NHS Lothian has rolled out specialist training for nurses to identify stroke earlier to improve performance.
The audit highlighted that Lothian hospitals struggle to offer early access to specialist stroke unit care compared with other areas, often due to high demand for beds that forces patients to stay in other wards.
Andrea Cail, Scotland director for the Stroke Association, said: “People who have had a stroke rely on getting to hospital quickly in order to receive prompt diagnosis and treatment.
“We are concerned at the significant disparity across Scotland in delivery of the Stroke Care Bundle – the package of care every stroke patient should get when they are in hospital.
“This has a knock-on effect on supporting people to achieve the best possible recovery after stroke.”
Only 67 per cent of Lothian patients were given clot-busting drugs to tackle blockages within an hour of arrival, against a target of 80 per cent.
The number of patients given a swallow screen to stop them from choking has risen to 77 per cent but still missed the 90 per cent target.
Stroke is the third biggest killer and leading cause of disability in Scotland. The cost of caring for stroke patients accounts for five per cent of the whole NHS bill.
Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said: “Today’s report shows that some stroke patients are missing out on receiving care that meets the agreed standard. Ministers need to work with health boards to strengthen their responses to one of the biggest killers in Scotland.”
Jim Crombie, chief officer of acute services at NHS Lothian, said: “We are committed to providing the best quality care. An intensive training regime has been rolled out across NHS Lothian to ensure more nurses are aware of lifesaving stroke and TIA assessment and treatment. Teams of specialist outreach staff are also being developed and dedicated stroke units combining care and rehabilitation have also been created.
“A programme of quality improvement work to boost access to speciality beds by working across our three acute hospitals is under way and is also focusing on redesigning patient pathways to ensure patients are treated at the right place by the right teams.”