A team at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is transforming the quality of care for stroke patients.

The acute stroke and neurology team, made up of 50 members, provides care for stroke patients on ward nine at Bradford Royal Infirmary and in the past six months has succeeded in making dramatic improvements.

On average two or three patients are admitted to BRI with a suspected stroke every day. In 2009 none were directly admitted to a stroke unit but in July this year 50 patients were admitted directly to beds on the stroke unit.

It means the patients are a third less likely to die and a third more likely to regain independence, due to being cared for by a specialist team with daily consultant review.

Ninety-per cent of these patients are being given a CT scan within 24 hours of admission and four out of five stay on the stroke unit for 90 per cent of their hospital stay.

The average stay for stroke patients has fallen from 35 days to 20 and there has been a significant increase in the number of patients having clot-busting thrombolysis treatment.

Between 2008 and May of this year, only ten patients received the treatment. In the past three months, nine patients have benefited from it. The treatment is not suitable for everyone but in some cases if given within four-and-half hours it can stop more damage being done to the brain.

The success has been achieved because the unit has set aside three beds for acute strokes and increased staffing levels, including the appointment of a stroke co-ordinator and a data audit officer to drive up standards.

Consultant stroke physician and clinical lead for the condition Dr Chris Patterson said: “This is about acute stroke patients getting the treatment they need as quickly as possible. For every minute treatment is delayed the patient loses 1.9 million brain cells.”

He said the starting process was recognising stroke symptoms and praised the FAST campaign, which highlights to the public what to look out – facial weakness; arm weakness; speech problems and time to call 999.

Ambulance staff now alert the stroke co-ordinator if a suspected stroke patient is on their way. On arrival the patient is met by the co-ordinator, quickly assessed and treatment begins.

An external accreditation panel visited Bradford in July and said the team showed great teamwork and high levels of enthusiasm and willingness to learn.

Future plans to further enhance care include the introduction of a 24-hour thrombolysis service using drugs to break down blood clots.