Professor Gary Ford, (Vice Chair of the AHSN Network and Chief Executive of Oxford AHSN) has co-authored guidance for adapting stroke services during the COVID-19 pandemic, and reshaping them afterwards, in a collaboration with the Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) programme.

The guide; ‘Adapting stroke services during the COVID-19 pandemic: an implementation’ aims to help counter the impact of the crisis on NHS stroke services and build on changes adopted by teams across the UK, which will be beneficial in the post-peak phase of the pandemic. GIRFT’s joint stroke leads, Dr Deb Lowe and Dr David Hargroves also co-authored the guide.

Hosted on the British Association of Stroke Physicians (BASP) resource hub, the guide includes information on:

  • Telemedicine for remote decision-making about thrombolysis / thrombectomy
  • Care at hospitals without acute stroke units
  • Virtual clinics for transient ischemic attack (TIA) and minor stroke.

To promote ongoing learning and collaboration, the guide encourages stroke teams to share their own experiences of working in the NHS during the pandemic via a case study form. The guide also includes case studies and resources for implementing recommended practices.

Gary Ford said: “Rapid changes are needed in some hospital and regional services if people with stroke are to continue to receive sustainable high-quality care. Coordinating innovations within and between the evolving integrated stroke delivery networks (ISDNs) may facilitate a sustainable cohesive response.

“Sharing experience across our community is key to the rapid spread of best practice. We must capture the learnings from these new models of care, including understanding the patient and carer experience.

“We need to grasp the opportunity to maintain beneficial changes in our clinical pathways as we return to more normal working during the recovery and restoration period of the pandemic. We hope this guide provides some help and reassurance to colleagues who are reshaping their stroke services across the UK.”

In addition to his AHSN roles, Gary Ford is a consultant stroke physician at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Professor of Stroke Medicine at the University of Oxford. He leads on the adoption of innovation in stroke care for the AHSN Network.

Other contributors to the guide included Dr Guy Rooney, medical director, and Hannah Oatley, clinical innovation adoption manager at Oxford AHSN, Dr George Harston, a consultant physician at Oxford University Hospitals, and Jemma Lough, independent medical writer and author.