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New certification system to raise stroke care standards

Patients who have suffered a stroke perform recovery activities with the help of nurses in the recovery program of the General Hospital
Photo: Dreamstime

The Stroke Foundation’s goal of ensuring all Australians can access the best stroke care possible, regardless of where they live, has taken a significant step today with the inaugural National certification of five stroke units.

Stroke Unit Certification is recommended by both the World Health Organisation, the World Stroke organisation and the Federal Government Heart and Stroke Plan as a method of ensuring best possible stroke care. It is commonplace in many countries but has never previously occurred in Australia.

Working with the Stroke Society of Australasia, Stroke Foundation has introduced, for the first time, a national certification program for hospitals to support them to deliver best-practice care for the 39,500 Australians who have a stroke each year.

The Australian Stroke Coalition (ASC) Stroke Unit Certification Project has begun as a 12-month pilot. It encourages hospitals to consistently meet a set of national stroke care criteria including caring for all stroke patients on a single dedicated ward, with specialist staffing, regular training, data monitoring and improvement, and patient involvement in decision making.

The first five hospitals are being commended for making the grade:

• Shoalhaven Hospital (NSW)
• The Alfred Hospital (VIC)
• St John of God Midland Public and Private Hospitals (WA)
• Royal Adelaide Hospital (SA)
• Launceston General Hospital (TAS)

Stroke Foundation Interim Executive Director, Stroke Services and Research, Kelvin Hill, says this will improve outcomes for patients.

“Treatment on a dedicated stroke unit is proven to make the biggest overall difference of any intervention to patient outcomes following stroke, reducing the risks of both death and disability. Both Australian and international evidence suggests that rigorous stroke centre certification programs improve the quality of stroke care and patient outcomes.”

The need for a certification system comes after Stroke Foundation’s National Acute Services Audit 2021 found that not all Australian hospitals with a self-designated stroke unit meet the requirements for stroke unit care.

“This means some people with stroke are being provided suboptimal care which impacts their recovery and leads to poorer health outcomes. This is unfair. All Australian survivors of stroke deserve the best quality of care regardless of where they are hospitalised. There should be no postcode lottery.” Mr Hill said.

Participation in the program is voluntary and there is no penalty for hospitals that do not meet the criteria but Stroke Society of Australasia president, Professor Tim Kleinig, is optimistic that all Australian hospitals with self-designated stroke units will apply for certification over time, building on the current pilot phase.

“This is an opportunity for all Australian hospitals treating patients with stroke to further enhance the already excellent work their stroke teams deliver. Quality stroke unit care is a human right and all Australians deserve nothing less. We must ensure everyone unfortunate enough to have a stroke has the best possible chance, not only of survival, but also a good post-stroke recovery.”

“I applaud these hospitals for taking the necessary steps in ensuring they meet and maintain a high quality of stroke care. Along with the World Health Organisation and World Stroke Organisation, we hope all hospitals providing stroke care will participate in the certification process.” Professor Kleinig said.

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