Marking two decades of stroke care in Salford

8 May 2024

This May, Stroke Awareness Month coincides with the 20th anniversary of the stroke unit at Salford Royal Hospital.

Sarah Heathcote, a non-medical consultant in stroke, was present when the unit first opened its doors two decades ago. Reflecting on her experiences, she sheds light on what sets Salford's stroke service apart.

"Twenty years ago, within Salford, there was a stroke rehabilitation unit but no acute stroke service," Sarah recalls. "Anyone who suffered a stroke was cared for on a general medical ward. It became evident that we needed a dedicated acute stroke unit where we could centralise care and provide specialised stroke treatment."

In February 2004, Sarah was tasked with the challenge of establishing the unit. Initially, a 10-bed unit exclusively for Salford patients, the unit implemented novel approaches to care. "We operated with a nurse-led service, where nurses would assess patients and consult with a doctor as needed—a concept that was relatively new at the time," Sarah says.

Over the years, the unit evolved into a collaborative team effort. Today the unit consists of 47 beds and cares for an average of 3000 patients every year.

The team have worked tirelessly to improve the services, and their commitment has been recognised through the Band A, the highest grade awarded by SSNAP (Sentinel Stroke National Audit Programme), the national stroke unit monitoring body. As a result, Salford Royal has become the designated Greater Manchester Comprehensive centre for stroke care, a partnership of stroke care providers across the region, providing coordination of services, training, collaborative working and improvement of standards of care throughout the stroke care journey, from acute care through to rehabilitation and life after stroke.

“We are always proud when people say that when it comes to stroke care, living in Greater Manchester is not a postcode lottery."

Sarah’s journey in stroke care began unexpectedly. "I started working at Salford in 1994 as a staff nurse on an elderly rehab ward" she recalls. "The ward transitioned into a stroke rehabilitation unit, and I fell into stroke care rather than consciously choosing it."

Now in her 30th year in stroke care, Sarah expresses her dedication to the field: “I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else!”.

Accessibility tools

Return to header