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Stroke units: research and reality. Results from the National Sentinel Audit of Stroke
  1. A G Rudd1,
  2. A Hoffman2,
  3. P Irwin2,
  4. M Pearson3,
  5. D Lowe2,
  6. on behalf of the Intercollegiate Working Party for Stroke
  1. 1Clinical Effectiveness and Evaluation Unit, Royal College of Physicians, London and Consultant Stroke Physician, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals NHS Trust, London, UK
  2. 2Clinical Effectiveness and Evaluation Unit, Royal College of Physicians, London, UK
  3. 3Clinical Effectiveness and Evaluation Unit, Royal College of Physicians London and Consultant Physician, Aintree Hospitals NHS Trust, Liverpool, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr A Rudd
 Clinical Effectiveness and Evaluation Unit, Royal College of Physicians, 11 St Andrews Place, London NW1 4LE, UK;


Objectives: To use data from the 2001–2 National Stroke Audit to describe the organisation of stroke units in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and to see if key characteristics deemed effective from the research literature were present.

Design: Data were collected as part of the National Sentinel Audit of Stroke in 2001, both on the organisation and structure of inpatient stroke care and the process of care to hospitals managing stroke patients.

Setting: 240 hospitals from England, Wales and Northern Ireland took part in the 2001–2 National Stroke Audit, a response rate of over 95%. These sites audited a total of 8200 patients.

Audit tool: Royal College of Physicians Intercollegiate Working Party Stroke Audit Tool.

Results: 73% of hospitals participating in the audit had a stroke unit but only 36% of stroke admissions spent any time on one. Only 46% of all units describing themselves as stroke units had all five organisational characteristics that previous research literature had identified as being key features, while 26% had four and 28% had three or less. Better organisation was associated with better process of care for patients, with patients managed on stroke units receiving better care than those managed in other settings.

Conclusion: The National Service Framework for Older People set a target for all hospitals treating stroke patients to have a stroke unit by April 2004. This study suggests that in many hospitals this is being achieved without adequate resource and expertise.

  • stroke units
  • national audit

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  • This study was funded by the Stroke Association, Boehringer Ingelheim, Merck, Sharp and Dohme, Sanofi-Synthelabo and Bristol-Myers Squibb.