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Patients' and carers' experiences of gaining access to acute stroke care: a qualitatitve study

Background Rapid access to acute stroke care is essential to improve stroke patient outcomes. Policy recommendations for the emergency management of stroke have resulted in significant changes to stroke services, including the introduction of hyper-acute care.

Objective To explore patients’ and carers’ experiences of gaining access to acute stroke care and identify the factors that enabled or prevented stroke from being treated as a medical emergency.

Methods Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with 59 stroke survivors and carers who had received care at seven UK centres. The interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim and thematic analysis was undertaken.

Results Themes emerging showed that participants recognised signs and symptoms, they were satisfied with access to emergency medical services (EMS), and they experienced setbacks in the emergency department and delays caused by the lack of availability of specialist services outside normal working hours. Awareness of the importance of time to treatment was generally attributed to the UK stroke awareness campaign, although some felt the message was not sufficiently comprehensive. This awareness led to increased frustration when participants perceived a lack of urgency in the provision of assessment and medical care.

Conclusions The stroke awareness social marketing campaign has contributed to public knowledge and was perceived to assist in reducing prehospital delay. It has also resulted in an enhanced knowledge of the significance of rapid treatment on admission to hospital and raised public expectation of EMS and stroke services to act fast. More research is required to assist organisational change to reduce in-hospital delay.

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Emergency Medicine Journal

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