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Stroke Association response to England December 2021 ambulance response times

Press release -

Stroke Association response to England December 2021 ambulance response times

Tens of thousands of emergency patients waited nearly two hours for ambulances

More than 40,000 who called 999 in December 2021 waited nearly two hours for an ambulance with an emergency condition such as stroke, today’s figures show.

Today’s data release from NHS England shows that the 10% of category 2 (90th centile corresponding to 40,995 incidents) calls to 999 (which include strokes) took over 1 hour and 59 minutes (01:59:12) to arrive in December 2021. The average response time is 53 minutes (00:53:12), over two and a half times the 18 minute response time target.

In the UK there are over 100,000 strokes per year and 1.3 million stroke survivors. Most recent data shows that stroke, a sudden brain attack, is fatal for one in eight (13.2%) patients. This is because for every minute a stroke goes untreated, 1.9 million brain cells die. The extra time taken for an ambulance to arrive increases the probability of death or unnecessarily severe disability as a consequence of stroke. The Stroke Association expects stroke mortality to increase this winter with delays in treatment and a possible increase in stroke patients co-presenting with Covid-19; both of which significantly affect chances of patient morbidity.

Around 87% of strokes are caused by a blood clot in the brain. The most widely used treatment, thrombolysis - ‘clot-busting’ drugs - can only be administered within four and a half hours of stroke symptoms starting. Other treatments, such as mechanical thrombectomy rely on access within a similarly narrow timescale from onset of symptoms.

Juliet Bouverie OBE, Chief Executive of the Stroke Association, said: “I am seriously concerned that this crisis situation for the ambulance service could have severe adverse consequences for stroke survivors. We know that time lost is brain lost, because when you’re having a stroke, over 1.9 million brain cells die every minute.

“Over the past few years, ambulance delays have slowly increased and the times taken for stroke patients to get appropriate treatments has crept up too. This has been a slowly increasing danger for many years, but now we see an unprecedented leap in ambulance response times. I am worried that this severely threatens the lives and recoveries of stroke patients. Ambulance delays means delays or missed chances for treatment which cause avoidable disability and even death for some stroke patients.

“We recognise and applaud the hard work of ambulance call handlers, paramedics and stroke clinicians. They've made great progress in reducing time to emergency treatment when a stroke patient arrives at hospital. But these gains are being squandered by systemic challenges that mean ambulances are not getting some patients to hospital in the window that allows for life-saving and life-changing treatment. We're also concerned that some patients are being advised to make their own way to hospital which is scary and often not appropriate.

“Long ambulance delays are a symptom of a system which is failing. This is a problem across the whole health and social care system, which fails to get people in, through and out of hospital.

“This cannot be solved overnight and won’t recover this winter.

“The best thing you can do to help you or a loved one have the best chance of survival and recovery from stroke is to raise the alarm as soon as possible. This year, the FAST message is more important than ever. Make sure everyone you know and love calls 999 as soon as they see any of the signs of stroke. Calling 999 quickly is still important because it lines up getting scanned and seen by a stroke specialist as soon as possible when you arrive at hospital. We worry that scary stories about Omicron and ambulance delays are putting people off calling 999 like they did in the first lockdown.”

Ambulance response data for December 2021 (Published January 2022)

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  • Stroke strikes every five minutes in the UK and it changes lives in an instant.
  • The Stroke Association is a charity working across the UK to support people to rebuild their lives after stroke. We believe that everyone deserves to live the best life they can after stroke. From local support services and groups, to online information and support, anyone affected by stroke can visit stroke.org.uk or call our dedicated Stroke Helpline on 0303 3033 100 to find out about support available locally.
  • Our specialist support, research and campaigning are only possible with the courage and determination of the stroke community and the generosity of our supporters. With more donations and support, we can help rebuild even more lives.
  • You can follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Contacts

Angela Macleod

Angela Macleod

Press contact Press Officer National press and Stroke Association research and policy communications 07904 289900
Laura Thomas

Laura Thomas

Press contact Communications Officer Wales 07776508594
Ken Scott

Ken Scott

Press contact Press Officer North of England and Midlands 0115 778 8429
Daisy Dighton

Daisy Dighton

Press contact Press Officer London and East of England 02079401358
Martin Oxley

Martin Oxley

Press contact Press Officer South of England 07776 508 646
Vicki Hall

Vicki Hall

Press contact PR Manager Fundraising and local services 0161 742 7478
Scott Weddell

Scott Weddell

Press contact PR Manager Scotland and Northern Ireland 02075661528
Katie Padfield

Katie Padfield

Press contact Head of PR & Media This team is not responsible for booking marketing materials or advertising
Out of hours contact

Out of hours contact

Press contact Media queries 07799 436008
Kate Asselman

Kate Asselman

Press contact Artist Liaison Lead 07540 518022
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Tell us your story

Press contact 07799 436008

The UK's leading stroke charity helping people to rebuild their lives after stroke

The Stroke Association. We believe in life after stroke. That’s why we campaign to improve stroke care and support people to make the best possible recovery. It’s why we fund research to develop new treatments and ways to prevent stroke. The Stroke Association is a charity. We rely on your support to change lives and prevent stroke. Together we can conquer stroke.

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