Stroke survivor views on ambulance redirection as a strategy to increase access to thrombectomy in England

Abigail Alton, Darren Flynn, David Burgess, Gary A. Ford, Chris Price*, Martin James, Peter McMeekin, Michael Allen, Lisa Shaw, Phil White

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Introduction: Intravenous thrombolysis and mechanical thrombectomy are effective time-sensitive treatments for selected cases of acute ischaemic stroke. While thrombolysis is widely available, thrombectomy can only be provided at facilities with the necessary equipment and interventionists. Suitable patients admitted to other hospitals require secondary transfer, causing delays to treatment. Pre-hospital ambulance redirection to thrombectomy facilities may improve access but treatment eligibility cannot be confirmed pre-hospital. Some redirected patients would travel further and be displaced without receiving thrombectomy. This study aimed to elicit stroke survivor and carer/relative views about the possible consequences of introducing a conceptual, idealised ambulance redirection pathway.

Methods: Focus groups were undertaken using a topic guide describing four hypothetical ambulance redirection scenarios and their possible consequences: earlier treatment with thrombectomy; delayed diagnosis of non-stroke ‘mimic’ conditions; delayed thrombolysis treatment; and delayed diagnosis of haemorrhagic stroke. Meetings were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim and data analysed thematically using emergent coding.

Results: Fifteen stroke survivors and carers/relatives participated in three focus groups. There was wide acceptance of possible low-risk consequences of ambulance redirection, including extended travel time, being further from home and experiencing longer hospital stays. Participants were more uncertain about higher-risk consequences, including delays in diagnosis/treatment for patients unsuitable for thrombectomy, but remained positive about ambulance redirection overall. Participants rationalised acceptance of higher-risk consequences by recognising that redirected patients would still access appropriate treatment, even if delayed. In addition, acceptance of ambulance redirection would be increased if there were robust clinical evidence showing net benefit over secondary transfer pathways.

Conclusions: Participant views were generally supportive of ambulance redirection to facilitate access to thrombectomy. Further research is needed to demonstrate overall benefit in an NHS context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalBritish Paramedic Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2024

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