‘Urgent action’ needed to improve stroke care

Older people’s charity says swift treatment vital to avoid long-term disability

Wednesday 10th July 2019

A leading older people’s charity has called for ‘urgent action’ after figures published this week show health boards in Scotland are routinely falling short of a set of stroke care standards linked to reduced mortality.

Age Scotland is calling for the Scottish Government and NHS boards to urgently improve care for stroke patients as new statistics show almost a third do not get the prompt care they need.

Last year, every one of Scotland’s health boards failed to meet a target to give 80% of patients appropriate care, which includes hospital admission within one day, a brain scan within 24 hours, screening tests within 4 hours and aspirin being provided within a day.

“It’s a significant cause for concern that not a single NHS board met the targets last year. We urgently need the Scottish Government and NHS boards to come up with a plan to address these figures and ensure every stroke patient gets the care they need,” says Adam Stachura, head of policy with Age Scotland.

Stroke is the third biggest killer in Scotland and a leading cause of disability, and our risk increases as we get older. Getting swift treatment is absolutely essential to minimise the long-term effects and even reduce the risk of death.”

People are most likely to have a stroke over the age of 55, and one in five women and one in six men will have one in their lifetime.

Responding, a Scottish Government spokesperson insisted there had been ‘significant progress’, stating: “Over the past ten years, the number of people dying from stroke has decreased by 42%…but we want to go further.

“We continue to implement our Stroke Improvement Plan which sets out the priorities and actions to deliver improved prevention, treatment and care for all people living in Scotland who are affected by stroke.

“Our Scottish Stroke Improvement Programme Coordinator works with health boards and their managed clinical networks for stroke to support all staff to further improve, share good practice across Scotland and develop tools and resources to build capacity, knowledge and skills.”

The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh said yesterday that it was disappointed a full range of services that included mechanical thrombectomy was not yet available to stroke patients.

The treatment is used to remove blood clots that routine drugs have not affected.

A Government spokesperson added: “We fully support the development of thrombectomy services in Scotland, which we believe can significantly improve outcomes and quality of life for stroke survivors by avoiding or reducing the level of disability.

“The Health Secretary has made clear that she expects this service to be made available in appropriate sites across Scotland and asked that a national planning framework is developed to ensure a high quality and clinically safe service can be implemented.”