Patients presenting to emergency ambulance services with Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) are usually conveyed to the Emergency Department (ED) with subsequent referral to specialist assessment at a TIA clinic within one week if at low risk of stroke. There is opportunity for paramedics to refer patients with TIA at low risk of recurrent stroke directly to a specialist TIA clinic, avoiding the transportation and care at the ED however evidence is lacking about current practice, safety and effectiveness of this intervention.
We aimed to describe current service developments across the United Kingdom (UK) for the pre-hospital emergency care of patients with TIA, to inform the development of an intervention for testing.
We surveyed all UK Ambulance Trusts (n = 13) by email, asking them to identify initiatives related to the management of TIA, and followed up services reporting an alternative TIA pathway by telephone to gather further details.
Twelve ambulance services responded to our survey. Eight reported that they had not developed or implemented TIA referral pathways. Three reported currently using a TIA referral pathway; one had discontinued their pathway due to service reconfiguration. All (4/4) pathways used the FAST test and ABCD2 tool to screen patients, in line with national guidelines, and classified patients as low risk if the ABCD2 score was ≤3. All indicated that eligible low-risk TIA patients should be referred by paramedics to specialist care, 2/4 by telephone, and 2/4 by fax.
Although protocol compliance was audited in an initial pilot in one service, no formal evaluation of effectiveness was reported.
Several UK ambulance services have introduced similar referral pathways for low risk TIA patients, avoiding transportation of patients to the ED. Existing initiatives can inform the development of an intervention for evaluation in a randomized trial.