Planning and providing acute stroke care in England: the effect of planning footprint size
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
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Background: Guidelines in England recommend that hyperacute stroke units (HASUs) should have a minimum of 600 confirmed stroke admissions per year in order to sustain expert consultant-led services, and that travel time for patients should ideally be 30 min or less. Currently, 61% of stroke patients attend a unit with at least 600 admissions per year and 56% attend such a unit and have a travel time of no more than 30 min. Objective: We have sought to understand how varying the planning and provision footprint in England affects access to care whilst achieving the recommended admission numbers for hyper-acute stroke care. We have compared two different planning footprints to national-level planning: planning using five NHS Regions in England, and planning using 44 Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) in England. Methods: Computer modeling and optimization using a multi-objective genetic algorithm. Results: The number of stroke admissions between STPs varies by seven-fold, while the number of stroke admissions between NHS Regions varies by 2.5-fold. In order to meet stroke admission guidelines (600/year) for all units the maximum possible proportion of patients within 30 min would be 82, 78, and 72% with no boundaries to planning/provision, NHS Region boundaries, and STP boundaries (in these scenarios patients cannot move outside of their own STP or NHS Region). If STP or NHS Region boundaries are removed for provision of service (after planning is performed at these local levels), travel time is improved, but number of admissions to individual hospitals become significantly changed, especially at STP planning level where admission numbers per unit changed by an average of 204 (19%), and not all units maintained 600 admissions after removal of boundaries. Conclusion: Planning and providing services at STP level could lead to sub-optimal service provision compared with using larger and more consistently populated planning areas.