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Stroke specialist nurses should not be redeployed, says leading stroke nurse

Safety and outcomes of patients with stroke is optimised by specialist care, professor states

COVID-19 pandemic has made patients reluctant to seek emergency care, says Stroke Association

Specialist nurse staffing levels on stroke wards should not be compromised by redeployment in the pandemic, a leading nurse in the field said.

Dame Caroline Watkins , professor of stroke and older peoples care at the University of Central Lancashire, and one of just two professors of stroke care in the UK, stressed it is nursing staff with specialist knowledge and skills who should be giving complex care patients need following stroke.

Dame Caroline Watkins

She said: You dont want to be making the stroke ward short-staffed by sending nursing staff all over the place. Stroke patients need to be looked after by specialist nurses.

    COVID-19 pandemic has made patients reluctant to seek emergency care, says Stroke Association

    Picture: iStock

    Specialist nurse staffing levels on stroke wards should not be compromised by redeployment in the pandemic, a leading nurse in the field said.

    Dame Caroline Watkins, professor of stroke and older people’s care at the University of Central Lancashire, and one of just two professors of stroke care in the UK, stressed it is nursing staff with specialist knowledge and skills who should be giving complex care patients need following stroke.

    Dame Caroline Watkins

    She said: ‘You don’t want to be making the stroke ward short-staffed by sending nursing staff all over the place. Stroke patients need to be looked after by specialist nurses.’

    Professor Watkins said even without COVID-19, stroke wards would be under strain.

    Fall in acute admissions of people with stroke

    The Stroke Association expressed concern about lower acute admissions resulting from stroke during the pandemic.

    ‘Strokes haven’t stopped happening, which means people are in danger of dying at home, and not getting the treatment they need to prevent long-term disability’

    Juliet Bouverie, chief executive, Stroke Association

    The charity said during the first wave of the pandemic there was an 11% fall in stroke admissions between the first quarter of this year and the early lockdown period of 23 March to 30 June; and a 13% drop since the period April to June 2019.

    Reluctance to present to hospital puts people at risk

    Stroke Association chief executive Juliet Bouverie is concerned this drop in admissions meant people were at risk of death or preventable adverse outcomes.

    ‘We heard from stroke clinicians that as the number of reported COVID-19 cases went up in the first wave, the number of people presenting at A&E with stroke dropped considerably,’ she said.

    ‘Strokes haven’t stopped happening, which means people are in danger of dying at home, and not getting the treatment they need to prevent long-term disability.’

    Quick action is key to optimising outcomes

    Ms Bouverie said with winter coming and COVID-19 cases increasing again in the UK, the charity wanted to emphasise to the public the importance of calling 999 if anyone is experiencing or witnessing stroke symptoms.

    ‘Stroke is a life-threatening, medical emergency and time lost is brain lost. The quicker you act the more of a person you are likely to save, giving them hope of a better recovery,’ she said.

    FAST – the quick check for stroke symptoms

    The Stroke Association is urging people to remember the signs of stroke and what to do through the acronym FAST:

    • Face – Is the person’s face drooping on one side?
    • Arms – Can they lift them?
    • Speech – Is their speech slurred? If you spot any one of these symptoms then it’s…
    • Time to call 999

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