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RD&E’s stroke service becomes first in region to achieve top score in national audit


The RD&E has become the first acute hospital in the South West to achieve a grade ‘A’ score for its stroke care since the national stroke audit began in 2013.

The A grade, awarded by the Sentinel Stroke National Audit Programme (SSNAP) for England, Wales and Northern Ireland for the period December 2016-March 2017, is given only to Trusts delivering the very highest standards of care from initial emergency scanning and drug treatment through to therapies and discharge home. Only 16% of stroke teams nationally achieved the top score and the audit programme refers to those achieving Grade A as ‘world class’ providers of stroke care.

Dr Nicky Mason, Consultant for Stroke Medicine and Healthcare for Older People, said: “This is an extraordinary achievement for the RD&E. The stroke team is made up of a dynamic and caring group of individuals who are passionate about their work.   

“Achieving a grade A has only been possible through the persistence and determination of staff across many departments to achieve the best for all patients. 

”A stroke can leave people with life-changing disabilities. A stroke usually occurs without any warning so comes as a great shock to the affected individual and those close to them.  It causes great distress to those affected. Patients often need to come to terms with a new perception of vulnerability about themselves.

“The goal of our care is to minimise any long-term disabilities. Whenever possible we support people to regain independence in their own home.” 

Each year the RD&E treats around 700 stroke patients. It provides emergency stroke care on Clyst Ward, with intensive rehabilitation on Clyst and nearby Yealm Ward. 


CASE STUDY: Former Royal Marine Justin Smallwood, aged 57 from Lympstone

Justin was treated at the RD&E in August 2008 after he suffered a stroke at home and now sits on the Trust’s monthly Stroke governance group as a lay member, helping clinicians to understand the patient’s perspective.

As the stroke began he remembers a ‘not unpleasant’ tingling sensation filling his body before he collapsed. When he came to and tried to carry on with his day, he cut himself shaving and ‘nearly blew up the kitchen’ attempting to cook something because his left hand wasn’t working properly. He was also unsteady on his feet. A friend took him to a GP who quickly suspected a stroke and sent him to the RD&E, where he stayed for a week before being discharged.

Fortunately he has no long-lasting physical symptoms, although he stresses that even a mild stroke like his can trigger other more subtle and less obvious issues, such as sudden tearfulness and problems with fatigue, all of which can be hard for friends and family to understand.

Since his stroke, Justin has lectured on military strategy, helped youngsters in outdoor education and become an Action for Rehabilitation from Neurological Injury trainer, helping stroke patients after discharge.

He said: “For many people, making a good recovery from a stroke is a real prospect. It’s hard work and you have to stick at it. But even the slightest gains will bring a sense of great achievement.

“What I see and hear in my monthly meetings at the RD&E indicates we are lucky to have such an exceptionally well managed and led stroke service. I am thoroughly impressed by the professionalism of the whole team - doctors, nurses, therapists, managers and others – and their relentless attention to detail.”  

Further details about SSNAP can be found on the website


Added 06 September 2017

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