Opinions

Scotland needs to improve its stroke services

Written by: Colin Oliver, Public Affairs Officer, Stroke Association

Published: 09/04/2021

"Each and every stroke is an individual tragedy for the person affected, their family and friends."

The Scottish Government made stroke improvement commitments in September 2019, before any of us had heard of Covid-19. Despite the pandemic, health officials have been working to review evidence and define what ‘a progressive stroke service’ for Scotland should look like. This definition is, in effect, a blueprint for the future of stroke care. The team has looked at what we do now, what others do, consulted with clinical colleagues and the wider stroke community including our charity and people affect by stroke, and come up with a document: This is what we should be doing. That paper is now with the Scottish Government.

Stroke and other cerebrovascular diseases kill over 3,800 Scots annually. Many more have to live with the effects. There are now over 128 000 stroke survivors living in Scotland.  It’s estimated there will be almost 175 000 by 2035. Widening gaps in health inequalities are contributing. Last year’s stroke audit highlighted an increase in stroke amongst young people in some of our most deprived areas.

Each and every stroke is an individual tragedy for the person affected, their family and friends. Stroke also carries significant economic weight. By 2025 the cost of stroke to Scotland in terms of health and social care will be over £2.5 billion a year. By 2035 that rises substantially to over £4.5 billion a year.

Our Recoveries at Risk report last autumn highlighted the real life impact of the pandemic on people recovering from a stroke.  Emerging evidence of links between Covid-19 and stroke means that now a renewed national focus on stroke is needed in Scotland. The improvements required to establish a ‘progressive stroke service’ provide that focus: improved stroke prevention measures, improved stroke care bundle figures, a national thrombectomy service and stroke-specific, person-centred rehabilitation and community support.

The fallout from Covid-19 is going to pose challenges for everyone in health and social care. It will also present opportunities. Our collective response to Covid-19 has included increased societal understanding of the imperative need for much more effective health and social care integration, it has also forced changes to established ways of doing things, and demonstrated the potential for increased use of telemedicine. Change is possible.

You can read more about the Stroke Association election 2021 manifesto (this link will take you away from our website).

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