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Data capture no obstacle for stroke care therapy changes at West Suffolk Hospital

By Karen Hurst, Stroke Data Systems Manager at West Suffolk Hospital



The new SSNAP dataset will bring big changes to the NHS stroke care pathway.

As Karen Hurst, Stroke Data Systems Manager at West Suffolk Hospital, explains, the support of an established software system means the therapy teams can embrace new ways of working without data capture for new criteria becoming a distraction.

When it lands on 1st October, the new SSNAP dataset is going to be a game changer for the whole stroke team at West Suffolk Hospital.

But despite the changes to come, the foundations we have in place after 10 years of using Capture Stroke for the development and improvement of our stroke services mean that the process for the collection and utilisation of data is deeply embedded in our everyday practice – so we are well prepared.

While we are very much led by SSNAP criteria for reporting data at a national level, the benefit for us internally comes from the way we impart our data across the entire team.

In that respect, the new focus on the therapy end of the patient care pathway is not going to be a challenge when it comes to data collection.

It has always been important to us that we own our data, and we have a strong tradition of involving everyone in our care teams – specialists, healthcare assistants, nurses and therapists – in the way we use the system to capture and validate data for the improvement of patient care quality.

Experience counts

We don’t expect the volume of available data to change significantly with the new dataset.

And thanks to our long experience with Capture Stroke, we already have a robust structure in place for data capture.

With that in mind, we will keep things simple for data input in the early stages until we get a clearer picture of what our targets and key indicators are going to be, and what the data itself is going to look like.

However, the impact of the new SSNAP criteria will introduce a different way of working as a team – particularly for our therapists, with the requirement to deliver three hours of motor therapy a day, for example.

The structure of how we work is also going to change, with more groups created to meet the new criteria, improve things for our patients and get them more therapy. 

Capture Stroke has really given us the confidence to approach this degree of change without being concerned about the software.

In some respects, Capture Stroke and SSNAP have become so integrated that it is hard to separate them.

Capture Stroke itself has really helped to bring SSNAP down to the wider team, and given them an understanding of why we do what we do, in the way we do it. 

Our therapy teams already have that target-led involvement in data input – and the ease with which new members of staff are onboarded into the system makes it easy to explain what the SSNAP audit is, and how they’ll be using the software to capture data for it.

That feeds into giving them the bigger picture of how meeting our SSNAP targets informs the way we work at a team level and care for our patients – and insight into how their colleagues work in different data feeds.

Visible benefits

It also helps that Capture Stroke is a visual tool.

When they input data, system users can see instantly what it means – and that, for example, a patient has had their 45 minutes of allocated therapy.

It connects right back into what we’re all doing in the stroke care unit.

This has already been important in supporting our therapists as they have moved to a six-day working week.

With such a large team of staff involved in data collection every day, it is essential for them all to understand why it matters.

It has also helped us by providing the data to make that the business case for that transition.

As a team at West Suffolk Hospital, we always talk about data – and having this visual view of where we are in terms of collecting data along the patient’s pathway means that at a glance, we can spot any gaps in data collection or missing modified rankings.

It also helps us to set our own internal targets.

For example, the national target to stroke unit is four hours.

But we knew that in order to get an ‘A’ in the SSNAP audit, we had to have a median time of less than two hours to stroke unit – and we set ourselves that target.

Capture Stroke supports us in that because we can see the live data. We can monitor how we’re doing all the time.

Team players

It doesn’t mean that things are easy. It has taken us a while to get to this stage. There will always be domains that go up and down, and data is never static.

It changes as our service changes. But we continue to adapt, and Capture Stroke supports us with data through these changes. 

Most importantly it has supported our team, who have welcomed it and see it as a positive tool – and if they were not on board with it, it wouldn’t work in the ways it does.

What you need above all is the support of your service and service leads.

Without that, no software will deliver the benefits you are hoping for.

Having a culture that celebrates the value of data – and we love it at West Suffolk – means that nobody escapes it.

Everyone gets to hear about it. It gives visibility to our successes and tells us when we have a gap.

Having the whole team on board, and our therapy leads fully engaged with Capture Stroke over the last decade has made all the difference.

And that will be essential as we step into gear for 1st October.

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