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Stroke patients in Northern Ireland deserve best care possible

Press Release   •   Oct 27, 2016 11:50 BST

Ahead of World Stroke Day (Saturday 29 October) the Stroke Association has welcomed the announcement that there will be a strategic review of stroke services in Northern Ireland.

The charity, which supports the estimated 4500 people affected by stroke in Northern Ireland each year, welcomed the review as an opportunity to reduce stroke deaths and improve post-stroke care and rehabilitation.

Earlier this week Health Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA stated that a public consultation on proposals to develop sustainable stroke services and further improve the standard of treatment and care provided to stroke patients will begin in February 2017.

Welcoming the review, Barry Macaulay, Director of the Stroke Association, said: “Over the past decade, we have made great strides in stroke treatment. However, we know from regular clinical audits many patients are waiting too long for access to brain scans and specialist stroke units and not receiving enough long term care to support their recovery. These are key elements that we want to see addressed as part of this review. . Stroke is a medical emergency, and when swift treatment is not given to those who need it, people’s recoveries are put at risk. The longer a patient waits for a brain scan, the longer it will be before they receive the right treatment, and they are more likely to be left with a serious disability as a result. Although we have not got a complete picture of the situation, clinical audits suggest that 27% of stroke patients wait more than the maximum 12 hours for a brain scan. We want this figure to improve.

“We are fortunate that we have many dedicated and skilled health professionals who are working hard every day to address these issues and make life better for people affected by stroke. However, it is vital these dedicated professionals can work within a system which is strategically organised to deliver the best possible outcomes for patients. We are pleased that the Department of Health is committed to reviewing services by working in partnership with expert clinicians and patients and carers, who are experts by experience”.

“We look forward to engaging with stroke survivors, carers, local communities and health professionals to get involved in this important consultation. This is a golden opportunity to create a world class stroke service in Northern Ireland”.

Figures from the Stroke Sentinel National Audit Programme at the Royal College of Physicians[i] , reveal that many stroke patients are waiting too long for access to brain scans and specialist stroke units and not receiving enough long term care to support their recovery.

The data reveals that from 2015 – 2016:

  • Only 1/3 (31%) of stroke patients in Northern Ireland receive a brain scan within one hour and over ¼ of all stroke patients (27%) wait more than the maximum 12 hours for a brain scan.
  • Royal College of Physicians (RCP) guidelines call for all patients to be treated in specialist stroke units. Yet only 24% of stroke patients in Northern Ireland are directly admitted to a specialist stroke unit within four hours[ii].

Ends

For more information, please contact Brenda Maguire (Communications and Campaigns Manager) on Brenda.maguire@stroke.org.uk / 028 9050 8051 / 079 4727 3640

Notes to editors:

A stroke is a brain attack which happens when the blood supply to the brain is cut off, caused by a clot or bleeding in the brain. There are around 152,000 strokes in the UK every year and it is one of the largest causes of disability. There are over 1.2 million people in the UK living with the effects of stroke. In Northern Ireland there are approximately 4500 strokes and Transient Ischaemic Attacks every year with around 1000 stroke related deaths. There are 34,000 stroke survivors living in Northern Ireland.

Stroke Association is a charity. We believe in life after stroke and that together we can conquer stroke. We work directly with stroke survivors and their families and carers, with health and social care professionals and with scientists and researchers. We campaign to improve stroke care and support people to make the best recovery they can. We fund research to develop new treatments and ways of preventing stroke. The Stroke Helpline (0303 303 3100) provides information and support on stroke. More information can be found at www.stroke.org.uk

[i] The Sentinel Stroke National Audit Programme (SSNAP) is the single source of stroke data in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. There are three main components of SSNAP, the clinical audit, acute organisational audit, and post-acute organisational audit. Prepared by the Royal College of Physicians Intercollegiate Stroke Working Party, and accredited by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), it provides a comprehensive examination of stroke care.

[ii] These statistics are from the Audit Programme’s clinical audit and are the annual results for Northern Ireland 2015/16. Available at: https://www.strokeaudit.org/results/Clinical-audit/Regional-Results.aspx