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Driving down death and disability rates from stroke

Driving down death and disability rates from stroke

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH News Release (2007/0194) issued by The Government News Network on 9 July 2007

Government launches consultation into future of stroke services

Our challenge is to modernise stroke services at every stage and drive down death and disability caused by strokes, Health Secretary Alan Johnson said today launching the consultation on stroke services.

Stroke is the third biggest killer in England and despite more money being spent on stroke care over recent years, care for stroke patients is still lagging behind the other two big killers - heart disease and cancer.

Stroke mortality is falling, with the death rate for those under 65 down by 23 per cent since 1993 but more needs to be done. We began by focusing on coronary heart disease, the biggest killer in the country. Now we must redouble our efforts in addressing the challenge of stroke.
The consultation on stroke services published by Heart and Stroke Director Professor Roger Boyle will look at how the NHS can bring the standard of stroke care into line with that of heart disease and cancer. The consultation will shape the final Stroke Strategy which will be rolled out later this year.

The proposals include:

- looking at smarter ways to prevent strokes such as providing faster treatment for transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs), also known as minor strokes, which act as a warning that a stroke is coming;
- treating the earliest signs of strokes seriously - all too often the first signs go undetected resulting in worse paralysis later for patients. People need to get into hospital, be seen by a specialist and scanned within 3 hours,
- improving care and support when people leave hospital - for example being supported by a specialist stroke team in the community to enable people to leave hospital and get home faster.

Visiting the stroke unit at King's College, London, Alan Johnson said:

"Stroke is the third biggest killer in this country, with 50,000 people dying from it each year. It also has a devastating and lasting impact on the lives of those who do survive, with a third left with a long-term disability.

"Despite the considerable gains in developing stroke units over the last few years, there remains more to be done to bring stroke services in line with cancer and heart disease services. That is why I asked Professor Roger Boyle to work with the experts and stroke patients to look at how best we can improve prevention, treatment and care.

"We have some world class stroke centres already - the challenge is to raise the bar for stroke care across the country based around the needs of individuals and their families."

Professor Roger Boyle, who will lead the stroke strategy, said:

"I want to see better public awareness of how they can prevent strokes and what the early signs are so they get the treatment they need in time. Getting proper, early treatment can mean the difference between long-term paralysis or walking out of hospital a few days after your stroke. It is vitally important that we get this right.

"NHS services may also need to be re-organised within Trusts or local areas to ensure that patients receive faster care. By redesigning services so that people can be given the newest treatments in specialist centres (including clot busting drugs), 1000 people who have a stroke a year could regain independence rather than die or be left dependent on others."

Notes for Editors:

1. The consultation ends on 12th October. The Stroke Strategy will be published after the consultation completes.

2. Alan Johnson and Professor Roger Boyle visited the world-class stroke unit at King's College London.

3. A stroke is a brain equivalent of a heart attack. A stroke can be diagnosed by using FAST - Facial weakness, Arm weakness, Speech Problems, Test all three. If someone has these symptoms you should call an ambulance straight away.

4. There are also Transient Ischaemic Attacks (or TIAs) which are often described as 'mini strokes'. The term TIA is used where the symptoms and signs resolve within 24 hours. A TIA increases the subsequent chance of a stroke.

5. Mortality rates are falling: for people under 65, the three year average death rate from stroke has fallen by 23% from 1993-95 to 2002-04, and for people 65-75 the death rate has dropped by 30% over the same period.


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