HEAT – now there’s an acronym for you. To you and me, “heat” is the warmth of the sun or the output of a radiator or a fire. But HEAT in Scottish Government parlance stands for:
Impressive stuff, huh? But what does it mean in practice?
Each year the Scottish government sets a number of HEAT targets, which inform the clinical and budgetary priorities of all our local health boards. The Scottish government has said for a number of years now that improving heart disease and stroke treatment are among its top priorities, so one of its HEAT targets for health boards in recent years has been as follows:
At least 90% of patients who come to hospital with a stroke should be admitted to the Stroke Unit on the day they come in, or the day after.
Since all the evidence suggests that the sooner patients are admitted to a stroke unit, the better is their outcome, this seems a reasonable and admirable target.
So far so good.
In the latest report on standards in stroke care in our 30 large Scottish hospitals, 15 hospitals met this HEAT target; 14 failed to meet the target and had stayed the same since 2010; 1 failed to meet the target and the service is described as “worse since 2010”. (Scottish Stroke Care Audit, 2012)
Since 50% of our hospitals are failing to meet this target, despite it being a clinical and budgetary priority, you would expect that the government would up the ante in some way or at the very least continue to pressure health boards to achieve this target.
You would expect that, but in fact all the indications are that this very basic HEAT target for stroke patients is set to be dropped from the end of this month, March 2013. In other words – we’ve set a target that will be good for stroke patients, but half our people have failed to meet it, so perhaps we’d better drop it altogether. Too difficult.
Because I have this geekish interest in stroke health matters, I’ve asked my local MSP for his take on this situation.
If you live in Scotland, will you ask yours?