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Acute stroke care is shaped by healthcare policies. Differing policies in similar populations allow for assessment of policy impact on health and healthcare outcomes. The purpose of this study was to compare stroke presentation and hospital care in two adjacent healthcare systems with differing healthcare policies.Interviews and chart review of consecutive acute stroke admissions in Northern Ireland (n=103) and the Republic of Ireland (n=100).Marked regional contrasts were evident for key aspects of hospital care. Northern Ireland performed significantly better on 15 of 16 quality of care (Sentinel Audit) items. Delivery on standards was significantly better in Northern Ireland for early assessment (Northern Ireland 72%; Republic of Ireland 54%, P<0.01), multidisciplinary review (Northern Ireland 69%; Republic of Ireland 31%, P<0.001), medications review (Northern Ireland 54%; Republic of Ireland 19%, P<0.001), and for discharge-rehabilitation planning (Northern Ireland 83%; Republic of Ireland 8%, P<0.001). Preadmission prescription of advised cardiovascular medications was similar between regions for antihypertensives and anticoagulants but significantly higher in Northern Ireland for antiplatelets (Northern Ireland 65%; Republic of Ireland 38%, P=0.001) and lipid-regulating medication (Northern Ireland 44%; Republic of Ireland 26%; P=0.006). Prescribing levels increased in both regions and all medication categories by discharge but with significantly lower levels in Northern Ireland for antihypertensives (Northern Ireland 60%; Republic of Ireland 75%, P=0.025). Northern Ireland patients were more functionally dependent (mean Barthel Index 10.5 versus 12.7 [Republic of Ireland], P=0.013) and less aphasic (mean Frenchay Aphasia Screening Test 17.8 versus 16.8 [Republic of Ireland], P=0.022).In similar neighboring acute stroke populations, differing healthcare policies were associated with significant differences in processes of patient care. Policy reform is an important tool in ensuring optimal stroke care delivery.