£77m to improve stroke services as UK ‘lags behind major Western nations’

The UK lags behind other developed nations in caring for thousands of patients who have suffered a stroke, and the labour Government is far from meeting its own targets in England, a new critical report says.

It comes as the Government announced that £77 million will be spent over the next three years as part of a national stroke strategy, unveiled last year.

Ministers said that every local health authority in England should appoint a dedicated stroke care coordinator to support stroke survivors and their carers.

But a report by The Health Foundation, an independent charity which seeks to promote good practice within the NHS, and seen by The Times, concludes that “stroke services are still not good enough”.

It shows that less than half of patients in England (43 per cent) receive a brain imaging CT scan within 24 hours of suffering a stroke. This is despite national guidelines which state this is required for all patients who have suffered a major blood clot or bleeding in the brain, to be given a brain scan within three hours, or one hour after arriving at hospital.

There are nearly 900,000 people in England living with the consequences of a stroke, and it is the third biggest cause of death in the UK. In England alone there are more than 110,000 strokes each year, and it is the leading cause of long-term severe disability in adults.

The report adds that Britain lags behind other major Western countries in deaths due to cerebrovascular disease — a disease of the blood vessels supplying the brain, which often leads to a stroke.

The UK achieved a 16 per cent fall in mortality between 1997-2004, whereas Germany saw more than double (33 per cent) this reduction during the same period.

The charity is funding a NHS programme in the North West of England, which aims to boost the number of people who could survive a stroke by 30 per cent by 2010, and increase the number of stroke survivors walking out of hospital without a long-term disability. The programme is being run in partnership with the Stroke Association and the Royal College of Physicians.

But the foundation’s report also stressed the importance of preventative checks and treatments, suggesting that as many as 69 per cent of strokes in inner London could be prevented by prior screening and reductions in blood pressure, treating abnormal heart rhythms, stopping smoking and prescribing statins to at risk patients.

Bread and cereal manufacturers could also prevent 8,000 strokes a year in England by reducing their salt content, it suggests.


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