The therapy team that helps stroke patients get back on their feet in northern Devon has come out top at a major national awards ceremony – for the second time in two months.
The team, based at North Devon District Hospital, was named ahead of nine other finalists to win in the stroke category of the Care Integration Awards.
Members joined more than 1,000 other health, social care and charity staff at London’s Grosvenor House, at which 12 category winners and nine ‘highly commended’ organisations were announced.
Alastair McLellan, editor of Health Service Journal magazine, which runs the awards, said: “Care integration…is likely to vie with care quality and safety, and with the financial squeeze, as the defining healthcare debate of the next five years. I’d like to express our gratitude to the award judges. Their expertise and knowledge reinforces the awards’ credibility and has helped ensure we have identified the very best from the hundreds of entries we have received.”
The stroke category was won by the stroke therapy team for its early supported discharge (ESD) and VISTA projects. Both are designed to ensure that stroke patients get home quickly after specialist treatment and receive the help and support they need to recover as fully as possible.
Only in May, their work earned the team both their category prize and the overall prize at the national Advancing Healthcare Awards.
The success was based on the Trust’s response to audit results and patient feedback before 2011, which had highlighted that patients and carers felt abandoned following hospital discharge due to lack of intensive specialist therapy and to long waits to be seen by non-stroke specialist community teams.
Part of the problem was the spread of Northern Devon’s 164,500 population across 950 square miles. Of those people, some 400 suffer stroke each year.
Extra investment was therefore used to create a new ‘pathway’ that patients would follow, drawing on the skills of acute stroke specialists, community staff and voluntary agencies such as the Stroke Association that routinely support people on the units and in the community.
Central to the new pathway was ESD, which enables stroke therapy staff to provide intensive rehabilitation at home, so patients can leave the stroke units earlier and continue their recovery in familiar surroundings. Specialist therapy staff work flexibly across the units and ESD, so effectively the same team of therapists manages patients from admission to hospital through to approximately four months after hospital discharge.
The service is now equitable across northern Devon, supporting all new patients, regardless of the severity of their stroke or where they are being discharged to. Trust patients have seen improvements at a multitude of levels, from functional and physical through to psychological wellbeing and confidence.
The changes also released capacity for a 12-week physical fitness and self-management intervention called ‘VISTA’. The VISTA programme – since recognised as an example of best practice by the Stroke Network – gives patients and carers the chance to meet up weekly with others in a similar situation. It aims to support patients with life after stroke and in making lifestyle changes to reduce their risk of subsequent strokes.
Feedback from patients and staff involved has been very positive (see notes to editors), while its impact has been evident in clinical statistics.
Trust patients have seen a 28% increase in walking speed after 12 weeks and a 24% improvement in overall physical wellbeing, while 86% of participants had improved their diet, lost weight, stopped smoking and/or continued to exercise nine months after completing the programme.
Overall, the new pathway worked so well that the overall length of hospital stay for stroke patients last year fell by six days, outweighing the cost of the service by over £500,000.
Emma Cork, Stroke Therapy Service Lead, said: “The double win at the awards last month was incredible, but this is even better. The Care Integration Awards and the HSJ are the gold standard for the NHS, so it’s gratifying to be recognised as the best across the country.
“I’m really proud of the team and their hard work every day to help people get better after a stroke. They do it for the patients, not for the recognition, so this is just the icing on the cake.”
Trust Chief Executive Jac Kelly said: “This is a great accolade for the team – it just shows how we can lead the way for the NHS from our corner of Devon.”
- The Care Integration Awards are organised by the Health Service Journal and Nursing Times magazines.
- The Trust is now allowed to use the attached winner’s logo
- The photo attached shows the Northern Devon stroke therapy team at the awards ceremony in London, with HSJ Editor Alastair McLellan(right)
- Feedback from patients and carers for ESD and VISTA:
- ‘This is an excellent service. My father could not even stand when he left hospital, now he is walking. He has also become much more positive and happy in himself.’
- ‘What did people do before this class (VISTA)! This has been excellent from start to finish, the help and guidance from all concerned has been superb. There is no doubt that I would not be improving at the same rate without this class. Thank you.’
- ‘I am grateful that not only was support and help first class for my husband, it was there for me as his carer.’
- ‘My mobility and walking is better than it was pre-stroke!’
- ‘Very happy with the service, can’t think of anything else they could have done to help. Marvellous.’
- ‘We have been very happy with all aspects of the service, especially the encouragement at each step along the way. We are delighted with the physical progress that has been made and the confidence gained. Thank you all!’
- ‘The care I have received at home from the ESD team has been exemplary. I have been given the guidance to cope with my disabilities and this care has dramatically improved my physical problems and has given me the support mentally to cope’
- ‘These services have been invaluable to (my mother’s) continued recovery once home from hospital. It was fantastic to have a member of the team visiting mum’s home on a daily basis for several weeks afterwards, giving her physical, emotional and psychological support. She trusted them as trained professionals, often acting on their advice, in a way that she never would have with the family and they, in turn, knew how to approach the situation in a way which a family might not. As the weeks progressed, she was gradually encouraged and enabled to get ‘out and about’ again and resume her normal activities. They gave her great confidence and I am convinced that she would not have achieved so much without the team, especially as my mother-in-law also had a stroke last year and did not accept the service, so I have seen the difference it makes first hand. When the home visits finished, (my mother) was invited to attend the VISTA group (exercise and education class following stroke) at the hospital gym. Again, she would never have done anything like this without the team, but has benefited enormously from it. As well as exercising, she has met other people in the same position, listened to talks from stroke victims who have recovered and joined in with discussions. (My mother) would not have made the progress she has made without the support of this team.’
- ‘Prior to my stroke I was depressed and inactive. VISTA has given me a new lease of life! I now feel more positive and confident and ensure that I get out and about everyday’
For more information on Stroke Services, please go here