The Health and Disability Commissioner has recommended a Health Board develop new guidelines, and provide additional training to staff on recognising the symptoms of stroke, following long wait times to see a patient.

The patient went to the hospital on three occasions. On the first visit, her symptoms did not clearly indicate a stroke. However, on the second and third occasions she went to the hospital, her symptoms indicated the possibility of a stroke.

On the second and third visits, it took five and a half hours and three and a half hours before she was seen by a doctor. Particular concern was raised about the delay on the third visit.

Where patients present with symptoms of a stroke, they should be assessed as category 2, meaning the patient should be seen within 10 minutes. On the third visit, the patient was classified as category 4 – to be seen within an hour.

The Commissioner held that given the seriousness of strokes, the incorrect categorisation by medical staff, and the long wait times, the Health Board breached the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers' Rights. The patient had the right to be provided services with reasonable care and skill.

The Commissioner recommended that staff be provided further training on recognising symptoms of stroke, review waiting times in the emergency department, develop guidelines for assessment and management of stroke-like symptoms, and provide an apology to the patient.

It is important that patients are seen in a reasonable amount of time, particularly when they have symptoms of potentially serious medical events.

If there are concerns around the medical treatment that you have received, it is wise to speak with a professional experienced in the area.

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Alan Knowsley