31 March 2014
A stroke happens when blood supply to part of the brain is cut off and brain cells are damaged or die. It is important because patients who suffer from a stroke can experience significant and lasting disability if they are not treated by a specialist in hospital immediately. Early diagnosis and treatment in a specialist hospital unit can improve a patient’s chances of survival and their quality of life post-stroke. National awareness campaigns such as the NHS’s Act FAST initiative are designed to help the public recognise symptoms and call an ambulance, but studies show more than 20% call their GP first.
The RECEPTS study was designed to understand how GP reception staff recognise and respond to patients with stroke symptoms. Conducted by researchers at the Universities of Birmingham and Oxford, the study suggests more specialist training for reception staff - as well as clearly defined policies on how to deal with potential emergencies - could help stroke patients get to hospital quicker. This in turn could save lives and minimise the impact of stroke. The study was published in the British Journal of General Practice in June 2015.
RECEPTS involved 52 family practices across the West Midlands, using questionnaires, focus groups and ‘mystery shopper’ telephone calls. Each practice received ten calls from actors mimicking between one and three symptoms of stroke. The receptionist was not aware the situation was simulated until the end of the call. If taking a call from a suspected stroke patient, receptionists should ask the caller to dial 999 immediately or immediately transfer the call to a GP.
The study found that:
The Getting to Hospital at a Single Stroke programme aims to deliver a training package for general practice reception staff in the West Midlands, designed to:
It is based at the University of Birmingham, and supported by the WMAHSN in partnership with the NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands. Educational value, trainee experience, patterns of uptake and usage and impact on policy and practice will be evaluated.
Dr Elizabeth Bates
t: 0121 371 8061