Doctors suspect that the high mortality rate in Lambeth - 30 per cent above the national average - is linked to the concentration of ethnic minorities. About 30 per cent of the population are of Afro-Caribbean origin.
Other comparable London areas such as Southwark and Lewisham have an average mortality rate; the figure for Tunbridge Wells, where inner- city problems are absent and there is almost no ethnic minority population, is 30 per cent below average.
The Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital Trust will receive pounds 500,000 from the Department of Health for a five-year project to assess the causes of strokes and improve the quality of care for victims.
Dr Charles Wolfe, senior lecturer in public health medicine at St Thomas', says he suspects that cultural factors are involved. Afro-Caribbeans are less likely to take tablets for high blood pressure than Caucasians, preferring to take herbal remedies, he says. He has also met Asians who would rather seek religious than medical advice.
One of the programme's main objectives will be to tailor stroke treatment to be more 'cost-effective and patient-oriented'. It will help identify elements of care which are relatively ineffective.
The study will also look at factors affecting recovery, such as malnutrition, and will evaluate the best way of treating blood clots, which occur in one-third of all patients .
There will be a community- based register of stroke patients admitted to Guy's, St Thomas', Lewisham and King's hospitals and GPs in Lambeth, Southwark, and Lewisham will be asked for details of victims not admitted to hospital. The hospital has also formed a team to visit patients at home.Reuse content