Social care must improve for stroke survivors, finds NAO

The quality of aftercare for stroke survivors has not matched improvements in hospital care for the group, a report by the National Audit Office has found.

Assessing the first two years of implementation of the national stroke strategy, published in December 2007, the report said that there were barriers to joint working between health and social care which prevented the development of good post-hospital support.

Improvements in aftercare for stroke patients was identified as a key priority in the national strategy along with raising public awareness and the fast response of acute health services.

However, the NAO found treatment for depression for stroke survivors was said to be one of the weakest services following discharge from hospital with only 24% of respondents to the watchdog’s survey of 760 patients rating these services as good or very good.

Provision of information about services and benefits to patients and carers were also identified as an area of weakness.

However, the risk of death within ten years of a stroke had been reduced since 2006 from 71% to 67%, the NAO concluded.

Edward Leigh, chair of the House of Commons committee of public accounts, which instructs the NAO, said: “Rehabilitation for stroke patients is still a Cinderella service. Patients lack proper post-hospital support from social services.”

A £105m package of funding to implement the strategy is due to end in April 2011. The report said that local authorities and NHS trusts needed to start planning for how to sustain the improvements that have so far been made.

The NAO recommended that good practice guidance on the provision of community rehabilitation teams should be disseminated by the Department of Health to encourage their adoption.

It also said staff training should be addressed by the department and Skills for Care by jointly developing a programme of training.

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