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In Norway, 15 000 people have a stroke each year. Sixty-five per cent of these patients are over 75 years of age. Stroke is the third most common cause of death, and the most common cause of disability among elderly people.

Patients who have had a stroke need to be assessed and treated without delay, irrespective of the time of day are admitted to hospital. A basic principle in treatment of stroke is that rehabilitation must be initiated early, and the patient must be mobilized and given other training to improve function. All this must be done at the same time as acute observation, assessment and treatment, In addition, prevention of another stroke and complications is decisive for the prognosis. Systematic interdisciplinary co-operation is necessary in all stages of treatment.

As part of countrywide supervision in 2011, we investigated whether elderly people who have had a stroke receive adequate treatment. In nine of the 29 hospitals we investigated, we detected breaches of the statutory requirements.

Based on the results of supervision, it appears that the services offered to elderly people who have had a stroke are adequate in most places. A vulnerable area such as treatment of stroke is dealt with and given adequate priority in many health trusts.

At the same time, we detected relatively serious deficiencies in management of treatment of stroke in some of the health trusts. This means that there is unacceptable variation in services to this vulnerable group. The result of this may be that some patients leave hospital with greater functional disability than they would have had if they had been treated at another hospital.

The Norwegian Board of Health Supervision expects the regional health authorities and the health trusts to implement measures to improve capacity for specialized treatment of stroke, and to ensure that interdisciplinary co-operation functions better, so that all elderly patients who have had a stroke receive adequate treatment in hospital.