A Quality Improvement Project to Assess Timing of Initial Investigations in Stroke Medicine

BMJ Qual Improv Rep. 2016 May 10;5(1):u209241.w3796. doi: 10.1136/bmjquality.u209241.w3796. eCollection 2016.


There are several investigations that can be completed in the acute phase of admission for patients with suspected stroke.These include receiving a CT Head scan and also blood tests specific for stroke. The national guidelines regarding CT Head scans detail they should be completed within 12 hours of admission(1) and the trust guidelines, local to where this quality improvement project was based, advise a CT Head should be completed within four hours of admission.(2) The current national guidelines do not specify exact stroke blood tests, however trust guidelines give a specific set of blood tests that would be appropriate to be taken when a patient presents to A&E with a suspected stroke. These included FBC, U&E, blood glucose, ESR, cholesterol, TFTs, and coagulation screen.(2) The aim of this quality improvement project was to assess the timing of CT Head scans and blood tests and to implement a tool to ensure these are done in a timely fashion, within the emergency care setting. The project was completed through three PSDA cycles. The first was undertaken in an A&E department, which was soon to be closed and moved to a different site. The second cycle was then completed at the new site, to assess if there had been any change in timings of these interventions. In the previous site it was found that 97% of patients audited received a CT Head scan within four hours. At the new site it was found 94% patients received a CT Head within four hours, therefore both meeting trust targets on the whole. A full set of stroke blood tests were completed at the old site in 53% of patients and this decreased to 22% of patients at the new site. At this point it was decided an intervention should be implemented to ensure this did not continue. The intervention used was updating a stroke panel on the trust computer system (an easy to use, one-click button entitled "Stroke/TIA") with the correct blood tests and the use of this was promoted throughout the trust. A post-intervention audit was completed three months after the tool was promoted and patients receiving the correct blood tests whilst in the A&E department increased to 75%. The amount of patients receiving a CT Head scan within four hours was 100% therefore meeting both trust and national guidelines. In conclusion, the stroke blood panel appears to have improved the amount of patients receiving the correct blood tests when admitted with suspected stroke and will continue to stay in place at the trust.