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NIMAST was the brainchild of Michael Power and Sandra Aitcheson while they worked together at the Ulster Hospital Stroke Unit in the mid to late 1990's.
Northern Ireland has historically led the way in stroke service development across the UK. Stroke was a rapidly developing area and they felt there was a need for some method of networking and sharing ideas and best practice about stroke for professionals across N.I.
The first exploratory meeting was held in 1999 and attended by a large number of multi professional interested staff from all parts of Northern Ireland. At this meeting it was unanimously agreed that we should form a regional multi professional organisation for stroke that would be called NIMAST (Northern Ireland Multidisciplinary Association for Stroke Teams). Since those early beginnings NIMAST has developed into a thriving regional organisation running annual educational meetings and more recently collaborating with the UK Stroke Forum to have a more substantial stroke conference in Northern Ireland each year.
NIMAST has been instrumental in pushing forward the need for stroke guidelines, stroke education and the stroke strategy which was published in 2008. This has had a very positive impact on the quality of stroke services throughout N.I. NIMAST was a key to enabling this to happen. NIMAST has also had a strong advocacy role when it comes to stroke in Northern Ireland and has lobbied the Minister for Health and the Chief Medical Officer on numerous occasions in order to highlight key important issues. NIMAST works closely with voluntary groups such as Northern Ireland Chest, Heart and Stroke, The Stroke Association and more recently Stroke Association in Northern Ireland.
NIMAST has been widely viewed in other parts of the UK as an exemplar for how stroke teams could organise themselves regionally as a network. From the original NIMAST group we now have NIMAST representation in Nursing, Physiotherapy, Speech and Language Therapy and Occupational Therapy. They each in their own way have had a strong impact on their own uni-professional groups but the core thrust of what NIMAST does continues to be multidisciplinary and champion the importance of the work of stroke teams throughout Northern Ireland.
These achievements have come about through the hard work and dedication of the many people who are committed to continuing its work.