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Sunderland supports Trust's mission to improve care for stroke patients

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Published on 24 June 2020

Sunderland supports Trust's mission to improve care for stroke patients
Sunderland supports Trust's mission to improve care for stroke patients

South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust’s staff education programme helping to improve care for stroke patients

An innovative staff education programme developed by the Acute Stroke Unit at Sunderland Royal Hospital to improve patient care could be adopted by other NHS trusts in the North East.

Stroke Specialist Nurse Diane Gulliver originally came up with the idea of offering staff on the unit a weekly education session, drawing on the varied expertise of the multi-disciplinary team involved in stroke care and rehabilitation for South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust patients.

This includes consultants, nurses and allied healthcare professionals such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, and orthoptists who investigate, diagnose, monitor and manage visual disorders. A key element of the initiative is also the involvement of patients who are willing to share their personal experiences of care. 

With the support of our University, the session has gradually been developed into a module. The university is now in the process of developing BSc (Hons) Professional Practice and MSc Advanced Professional Practice pathways into which the module would fit.

Diane Gulliver said: “It all came about when we realised so many different specialists were coming to the stroke unit and doing their jobs but we weren’t making best use of them as a resource by sharing their knowledge, skills and expertise with the whole team. It was also very important for us to involve patients because, ultimately, it is their personal experience from which we need to learn in order to improve.”

Whilst it is mainly nurses who have taken advantage of the additional education opportunity so far, the module is attracting interest from members of the therapy teams working in the Acute Stroke Unit. Other NHS Trusts in the region have also expressed interest in introducing similar courses to help staff to widen their knowledge and skills and, potentially, gain more qualifications.

Sue Brent, Head of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences at the University, said:  “It is great to see such positive work between one of our partner NHS Trusts and our School of Nursing and Health Sciences coming to fruition. We are genuinely excited and incredibly committed to the work we are doing in supporting our NHS colleagues.”

There have been major improvements in clinical outcomes since changes were made in December 2016, centralising acute inpatient stroke care for both Sunderland and South Tyneside patients at Sunderland Royal Hospital. As a result, more patients now have access to high quality, timely stroke care and lifesaving treatment, delivered by specialists in the dedicated unit. The Sentinel Stroke National Audit Programme (SSNAP) is used to measure the quality of stroke services across the NHS based on key indicators known to prevent serious long-term disabilities and give patients the very best chance of surviving a stroke and returning to as normal a life as possible. Latest data shows South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust’s specialist acute stroke inpatient service is rated at level B, with A the very highest level. Prior to the changes, stroke services in South Tyneside were rated at level E and in Sunderland, level D.