Only half of stroke patients receive 'essential' care, figures show

The number of people reported as having a stroke in Scotland increased for the third year running.

Only half of Scottish stroke patients receive ‘essential’ care, figures show STV News

Only half of the 11,257 Scots who had a stroke last year got the treatment they need to ensure the best chance of survival and recovery, new figures show.

It comes as the number of people reported as having a stroke in Scotland increased for the third year running in 2022, up from 11,055 in 2021.

Yet only half got the full care bundle – aspirin for those who need it, access to a stroke unit, brain imaging, and a timely swallow screen to check they were able to eat and drink safely.

Charity Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland (CHSS) said the annual Stroke Care Audit is a “wake up call” for the Scottish Government to turn around falling standards of stroke care.

It is calling for urgent action to reduce the number of Scots left with long-term disabilities.

The time it takes for someone to get hospital treatment has also increased from 52 minutes to 55 minutes in the last year.

Only 112 patients received a thrombectomy, a vital blood clot removing procedure experts suggest could improve the lives of 800 patients a year.

Jane-Claire Judson, chief executive of CHSS, said: “The 31 people in Scotland who have a reported stroke today will be frightened and their families worried. They need to trust they will get the best care possible.

“It is horrifying and unacceptable that only half of patients got the full stroke care bundle last year – these are essential measures that greatly improve people’s chances of survival and recovery.

“We all know that stroke is one of Scotland’s biggest health challenges, so it’s devastating to see in black and white that patients are not getting the emergency stroke care they need to recover.

“Receiving a thrombectomy has a major impact on recovery – something that could mean the difference between a few weeks in hospital or months and months. Yet less than 15% of people who could have benefitted got one last year.

“We know that clinicians all across the country are working hard to provide the best stroke care possible, and do the best for their patients. But it is clear the Scottish Government is simply not investing enough in stroke care as the numbers of patients rise and adherence to stroke standards fall.

CHSS is supporting thousands of Scots with significant, unnecessary disabilities as a result of these failings. Money is tight but failure to prioritise stroke care is leading to appalling results and increased cost – it needs to be urgently reviewed.”

Neil McTavish, 69, of Livingston in West Lothian experienced a stroke in late 2022.

His wife recognised the symptoms of stroke straight away and an ambulance crew from the nearby St Johns Hospital in Livingston was with Neil in a matter of minutes.

Neil said: “I didn’t realise I was having a stroke at first, but fortunately my wife did and was able to get me medical care really quickly.

“The staff at St Johns were waiting for me as the ambulance pulled up and I was assessed straight away.

“Due to some complications with my blood sugar levels, medical staff at St Johns weren’t able to proceed with usual treatments, but they quickly identified that I was a candidate for thrombectomy and transferred me to the Royal Hospital in Edinburgh.

“I don’t remember much about this, although I know I still wasn’t really aware I was having a stroke, even though my speech had gone. I could think sentences in my head, but I just couldn’t get them out.

“The next thing I was aware of was coming round after the thrombectomy procedure. Over the following week or so my speech began to return, and although I still experience some difficulty searching for words, it is a vast improvement on those early days.”

Less than a year on, Neil’s life has returned to nearly normal. His speech is much better, he is able to drive again, and travel with his wife to their caravan in Berwick-upon-Tweed.

“If I hadn’t had access to the thrombectomy procedure so soon after having my stroke I don’t know what my life might look like today,” he added.

“It’s unacceptable that this life-changing procedure isn’t available to all those people across the country who could experience the benefits and be able to return to a full and happy life after stroke.”

The Scottish Government has been contacted for comment.

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