Marking five years of The Vale Stroke Unit

February 23, 2024

Our Specialist Stroke Rehabilitation Unit team has been joined by commissioners, League of Friends, volunteers, Board members patients and colleagues to mark the fifth anniversary of the Unit at The Vale Community Hospital in Dursley.

A special cake baked by Staff Nurse Nicky Clifford featured images of the full team on the ward and Deputy Facilities Manager Warren shared cakes with the team and patients on behalf of Facilities colleagues.

There has been a specialist stroke service at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for many years, but it was recognised through the Stroke Sentinel National Audit Programme (SSNAP) that there was insufficient provision of rehabilitation in between acute treatment and our community-based Early Supported Discharge (ESD) Team.

After a few years of data collection, scoping and consultation it was agreed countywide that Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust (previously Glos Care Services) would host the new unit, and this would be best situated at The Vale Community Hospital on Peak View Ward.  14 of the 20 beds were designated for stroke patients, from anywhere in the county and the remaining six are for the local community.

Following the event, Deputy Service Director (Community Hospitals) Juliette Richardson said:

“I am so proud of The Vale Specialist Stroke Rehabilitation team. From the outset they have strived to provide the very best care and treatment to their patients and families and 5 years on they have gone from strength to strength. The ultimate gold standard service meeting National standards delivered by a hugely committed team.”

ICB Senior Commissioning Manager (Complex Cases) Debbie Gray also attended the event – she played a pivotal part of setting the Unit up five years ago. She said:

“It’s fantastic to see the unit up and running, with specialist staff and equipment in one place, dedicated to supporting people to recover from stroke. It feels good to have had a part to play in helping it come to fruition, in the knowledge that most of the people who have been through rehabilitation here have been able to return home.”

Our Chief Executive Douglas Blair said:

“I was pleased to join the celebrations of five years of the Unit. We are very proud of our fantastic team at the Stroke Unit at the Vale, and its regular positive feedback from patients, carers and families.”

Therapy Lead for Stroke and Rehabilitation, Angela Dodd spoke about the past five years:

“New rehabilitation staff joined existing colleagues to form the new team, and were welcomed with open arms and have worked together ever since.

“Over 730 patients have been through the Stroke Unit, the majority of whom were discharged to their own homes often with ongoing support from the Early Supported Discharge team for Stroke.

“As with all new projects there was a lot of planning and preparation involved. New staff roles, training of staff new to Stroke, adaptations to the building, equipment. Not unsurprisingly, our biggest challenge was COVID which struck approximately one year after opening.

“Our daily challenge now is to maintain flow of patients through the stroke pathway, optimising opportunity for all to receive the best rehabilitation possible”.

The multidisciplinary team consists of nurses, healthcare assistants, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, psychologists, rehabilitation assistants, discharge co-ordinators, doctors, training and development nurse, dietitian, social care practitioner, administration staff, hotel and facilities staff, pharmacist and volunteers. All vitally important to ensure a high quality and comprehensive service can be provided.

Angela adds: “The environment includes therapy and social areas as well as the beautiful grounds that patients and their visitors can enjoy when the weather is fine. We have our own raised bed over on the community allotment which is very productive in the summer months.

“Patients receive individual therapy sessions but are also encouraged to join group sessions for example the upper limb group, seated exercise, walking group, singing/conversation, art and craft, breakfast group/coffee mornings and gardening. We have a 24hour approach to rehabilitation so that patients, staff and families can make the most of the time between formal therapy sessions.

“We were proud to receive an ‘A’ rating on our first SSNAP audit and Highly Commended Award from the Community Hospitals Association in our first year. Our quarterly results have continued to be good since.

“For our involvement in a research project, we received an award last year from the National Institute of Health Research, for collaborative working with our colleagues at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

“We are supported by our League of Friends, Friends of the Vale Hospital who work hard to raise money for important equipment for the unit. We are all very grateful to all of them.

“Both The National Guideline for Stroke and the NICE Guidelines were reviewed and published last year providing more evidence for the service we provide and standards to work to.

“With the support of our organisation we will continue to develop the Unit in line with evidence as well develop staff through specialist training in order for the unit to continue to be a centre of excellence. We thank everyone involved for their support, guidance and encouragement”.

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