At the Stroke Association, we decided to campaign on three things we felt would really make a difference to 'life after stroke' care.

Scotland’s health and social care system will be £4.5bn by 2035. The system and society cannot afford to let that happen. But if we act now, we could save lives, improve outcomes, and reduce pressure on our NHS.

Stroke is one of the leading causes of death in Scotland. And, for those who survive, it is the biggest cause of adult disability.

The impact can be devastating, taking away a person’s ability to talk, to walk, and be the person they were. Stroke comes at a huge cost, not only to thousands of Scots families every year, but to the public purse as well.

Every year around 10,000 people in Scotland are admitted to hospital following a stroke. And more than 130,000 people in the country are currently living with the effects of stroke. This calls for a radical rethink of what is termed “life after stroke”.    

The Scottish Government have recognised this and introduced new measures to the 2023 update of their Stroke Improvement Plan to chart the progress of Health Boards in 23 rehabilitation areas from assessments to six-month reviews and psychological care.

In this year’s Stroke Improvement Programme annual report, due out at the end of July, Health Boards will class themselves (with input from the Scottish Government’s Stroke Improvement Team) as red, amber or green in these areas. This is a big step in the right direction. As we all know, being audited really focuses the mind!

But there’s a lot going on, so we at the Stroke Association decided to campaign on just three things we felt would really make a difference to this work asserting that every stroke survivor should: 

  • Leave hospital with a personalised rehabilitation plan     
  • Have contact information for ongoing support from stroke services
  • Receive a review of their progress and needs six months after their stroke

More than a month on from launching our ‘Thriving after stroke’ campaign, we feel it has been welcomed by our various audiences including Health Boards. One contact said, “it’s very helpful to have this put in the public realm so that people know what to expect and can call us out if it’s not happening”.

This is hugely encouraging. We know that campaigning for better life after stroke support will be a long road. But our briefing has set our stall out and is providing a focus for discussions with Health Boards and other important influencers and implementers.

We were helped in our launch by a terrific case study from Veronica Murphy, which showed what is possible when you get life after stroke support right.

It’s not easy to find case studies for various reasons, including that people’s experience of stroke can be very raw, greatly affecting their confidence and sense of self.

Veronica approached our request to tell her story in the same way as she approached her rehabilitation – with energy, enthusiasm and a bid to help others.

Veronica, 70, had a “massive stroke” on her birthday while celebrating with her daughter in Glasgow. She spent 13 days in the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) where the prognosis was bleak. But she was transferred to University Hospital Wishaw where she was put on a clinical trial, pioneering an intensive approach in stroke rehab. You can read Veronica’s full story in the briefing but she says her work with us – including a BBC Radio Scotland interview – made her feel “so much stronger”.

She continues, “It meant so much to tell my story. The radio interview was nerve- wracking, but I got so much encouragement from Stroke Association staff and I was on a mission to help raise awareness of what good stroke care can do. I want everyone who has a stroke in Scotland to get the same sort of support I had.”

What is life after stroke support?

Life after stroke support is a crucial, – but often overlooked – part of the holistic stroke rehabilitation pathway.

Life after stroke support is when core rehabilitation therapies, such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy, are complemented by other forms of support to address some of the longer-term practical, social and emotional needs that many stroke survivors have. 

This support can include signposting people to online resources and help in their community, including from charities. Where appropriate, it should also provide emotional support, return to work support and support for carers. Our ‘Thriving after stroke’ report sets out our case in a way we hope will bring the stroke community, including third sector and allied health professional colleagues, together.

Simply raising awareness of our calls in your own network would be a huge boost to the campaign. If you would like to get more involved, we would be delighted to hear from you at Scotland@stroke.org.uk 

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