Carolyn Martin, Stroke Unit, Dewsbury Hospital

This pioneering programme at Dewsbury Hospital in Yorkshire is lending previously unheard stroke patients a voice in the life-changing decisions about their care.

Following a stroke, many people have communication and cognitive problems. As a result, their opinions can be been misinterpreted or overlooked, or decisions made on their behalf without adequate consultation.

The reform programme managed by Carolyn Martin from the hospital's stroke unit was launched in response to the Mental Capacity Act 2007. The Act, however, does not describe how patients with communication difficulties can be supported.

The Dewsbury unit decided to introduce a range of supportive communication techniques involving specialist speech and language therapists and occupational therapists. The techniques are adapted to each individual's needs following detailed assessments. By providing this specialist intervention, it has given individuals the chance to fully participate in the decision making process. It has also helped to boost awareness among the wider health community of the need to engage patients.

One nurse in the stroke team said: "Patients and families now have the reassurance that they are being listened to and that their needs are being considered. I felt reassured as a nurse that patients were being treated with dignity and respect."

The stroke team is most proud of the fact that this new approach is now seen as an integral part of patient care, and its expertise is now being sought by the social services, community rehabilitation services and the trust discharge team.