Achieving step change in the emergency stroke pathway across the South West peninsula

South West PeninsulaStroke
Start Date: 1 Jul 2014


Researchers are working collaboratively to reduce stroke-related disability in the South West by accelerating the real-world implementation of clinical evidence for thrombolysis (clot-busting drugs) after acute ischaemic stroke.

Stroke patients are most likely to recover with minimal disability, if thrombolysis is achieved within 90 minutes from the onset of stroke. Recovering with minimal disability means a better quality of life for the patient, reducing the burden on carers and the long-term costs to health and social services.

There are approximately 3,600 strokes annually in the South West. The ten year target for stroke thrombolysis in the Department of Health’s 2007 National Stroke Strategy was 10% of all acute strokes. There is huge variation in the South West,with some centres with rates as low as 3-4% and long door-to-treatment times.

PenCLAHRCs previous award-winning work, on the emergency stroke pathway at the RD&E, has already achieved a thrombolysis rate of 16% (2013); matching delivery rates for large urban hyperacute centres.

The aim now is to repeat this work with other acute providers across the South West. If treatment rates follow the pathway modelled, it is anticipated that 600 stroke patients could be treated annually, giving them the best chance to recover with minimal disability. This would exceed the Department of Health’s national target by over 50%.


The projects overall aim is to reduce stroke-related disability by speeding up the real-world implementation of clinical evidence for thrombolysis for acute stroke. The project objectives are threefold:

  1. Identify process changes within hospitals that minimise the time to thrombolysis treatment in appropriate cases and quantify the disability benefit to patients from changes to the emergency stroke pathway;

  2. Quantify and mitigate the impact of increased travel times when introducing a centralised model of hyperacute stroke care;

  3. Identify and overcome barriers to implementation within emergency stroke centres.

Project Activity:

  • Use simulation models to better understand in-hospital delays and further explore the positive impact of care re-organisation:

This involves creating a computer model to mimic the flow of patients through an emergency department and stroke unit, using data collected locally from the ambulance service, the hospital’s emergency department and patient administration IT systems. The models will also be used to analyse the geographic spread of acute stroke in the region and to investigate the varying approaches to treatment at different centres, taking account of ambulance travel times. This will require the collection of appropriate data in each hospital, which is already specified in the national stroke audit (SSNAP), to which all trusts contribute. Additional data, defined as necessary during the early stages of the project, will also be included.

  • Identify barriers to and facilitators of change within each Trust and support Trusts to implement identified changes to their stroke treatment pathway:

The barriers and facilitators will be identified through the model development process. Implementation will be led by a Stroke Quality Improvement Manager, working with PenCLAHRC’s operational modelling team, local Trust physicians, managers and data analysts to ensure the delivery of effective plans for change.

Expected Outputs and Impact

Thrombolysis significantly increases the chances of surviving free of disability after acute stroke. Project success will be measured by observing;

  1. The before-to-after change in the proportion of people with stroke who receive thrombolysis and
  2. The reduction in onset to treatment times. 

By extension, these will indicate the resultant reduction in the prevalence of serious disability after stroke.

The researcherswill explore the potential for relating these benefits to the estimated cost of achieving change in order to estimate the cost-effectiveness of service transformation across the region. It may be possible to calculate this in pounds-per-case of disability prevented. More intangible benefits are likely to accrue through the process of managing and achieving change in collaboration with the dedicated Stroke Quality Improvement Manager. These may include culture change within each hospital and improved collaboration between departments within hospitals. Finally, improvements in data consistency and quality across Trusts will be obtained.

Dr Mike Allen