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Extended opening hours “could prevent strokes”

19 September 2008

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A new study claims that increasing general practice opening hours could prevent more than 500 strokes a year in England alone by improving the opportunity for assessment and urgent referrals.

Patients with a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or minor stroke usually choose to seek help from their GP rather than through the emergency services. Previous research shows that any delay in access to health services for these patients can have serious consequences.

Early assessment and treatment after a TIA and minor stroke can significantly reduce the risk of recurrent disabling or fatal stroke.

The national stroke strategy and guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recommend that high-risk patients must be seen within 24 hours of symptom onset.

Dr Daniel Lasserson and colleagues from the University of Oxford assessed the potential impact on stroke prevention of increasing primary care opening hours.

Their findings, reported on the BMJ’s website, show that current opening hours can increase the delay in assessment.

Most patients who had a TIA or minor stroke out of hours delayed seeking health care until their registered general practice was open, causing long delays in seeking treatment, particularly at weekends.

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BMJ online